Guardianship and Supported Decision-Making


When children with severe developmental or intellectual disabilities become adults, they may be incapable of caring for themselves or managing their financial affairs-in other words, they are incapacitated.

In that situation, it is possible for the court to appoint a guardian and/or conservator to act on that person’s behalf. A guardian is responsible for making decisions regarding the incapacitated person’s support, care, health, safety, habilitation, education, therapeutic treatment, and residence. A conservator is responsible for managing the estate and financial affairs of an incapacitated person.

However,it is important for families to understand that once a guardian/conservator is appointed, the incapacitated person loses fundamental rights such as deciding where to live, what to buy, or the ability to vote. In addition, the incapacitated person in vulnerable to fraud, thievery, abuse, or neglect by the court-appointed guardian/conservator.

Supported Decision-Making is an alternative to filing a petition with the Court for guardianship/conservatorship, but in some situations, the appointment of a guardian/conservator is the only or the most appropriate alternative.


Resources for Guardianship & Conservatorship


Resources for Supported Decision-Making

» National Resource Center for Supported Decision-Making

How would you feel if you had no say in where you live? Or where you work? Or who you spend time with? Or what you can buy and spend money on? That’s what can happen to older adults wand people with disabilities when someone else has the power to make decisions for them, like when they’re put in a guardianship. We believe that everyone has the Right to Make Choices. supported Decision-Making is a way people can make their own decision and stay in charge of their lives, while receiving any help they need to do so.

» Social Security Representative Payee Program 

When a recipient of Social Security benefits needs help in managing their money, a relative, friend, or other interested party may be appointed as a Representative Payee to take care of a beneficiary’s day-to-day needs for food and shelter.

» Dept. of Education-Transfer of Rights for Students with Disabilities upon Reaching the Age of Majority in Virginia

When a student with disabilities reaches the age of 18, that adult student is presumed under Virginia law to be capable of making his or her own decisions- including educational decisions. Initially, the student and parent(s) are notified by the school at least one year prior to the student’s eighteenth birthday that the transfer of rights will occur at age 18. The student with disabilities may complete a Power of Attorney form such as the one at Appendix B in the pamphlet to share their educational decision-making rights with their parent or another adult.

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