Supported Decision-Making (SDM), an alternative to guardianship is growing in popularity due, in part, to its less restrictive characteristics. SDM is a tool under which an individual with a disability selects advisors or supporters, such as friends, family, or professionals, to help the individual gather and evaluate information as well as to help make and communicate decisions.   Such arrangements may be either informal or made formal by a signed agreement between the individual and advisors.

Whether informal or formal, SDM arrangements should contain three characteristics:

  • Recognition that the special needs/disabled individual has the right to make his/her/their own decisions.
  • Acknowledgment that the individual can enter into a SDM arrangement without surrendering his/her/their right to make decisions; and
  • Understanding that the individual with a disability may need assistance in making or communicating decisions.

The American Bar Association as well as the National Resource Center for Supported Decision-Making also have provided some guidance in this area.