State Laws & Policy
I. State Adult Guardianship Legislation: Directions of Reform
Contact the Commission on Law and Aging for guardianship law and policy through 2005.
II. Adult Guardianship State Legislative Charts:
Core Statutory Charts
Additional Statutory Charts
Guardians ad Litem Charts (August 2018)
III. Health Care Decision-Making: A Guardian's Authority
- Health Care Decision-Making Authority: Health Care Agents vs. Court Appointed Guardians (50-state chart)
- Health Care Decision-Making Authority of Guardians and Agents
This Bifocal article provides a brief update on the statutorily established health care decision-making authority of each state. Additionally, the article highlights the growth of decision-making standards for court-appointed guardians with health care authority and emphasizes that patient-appointed health care agents should be the final authority on an incapacitated individual’s health care. The two charts below accompany the article:
IV. State Guardianship Statutory Citations
V. Restoration of Rights for Adults Under Guardianship
ABA Guardianship Policy
Please visit the Commission's Policy Page for a listing of Guardianship policy.
Third National Guardianship Summit
Wingspan—The Second National Guardianship Conference
Wingspread—The First National Guardianship Conference
International Guardianship Recommendations
Find out more about the Commission's Guardianship Jurisdiction project.
Court Volunteer Guardianship Monitoring Handbooks
Guardianship deprives an individual of virtually all legal rights to make decisions and choices. The decision-making ability of persons with disabilities (including older individuals with dementia) is often too quickly questioned and discounted. In many cases, courts appoint guardians for people who could continue to make their own decisions with the right supports and services. The American Bar Association has long been committed to advocating for less restrictive alternatives to guardianship. The ABA Commission on Law and Aging’s PRACTICAL Tool is a guide for lawyers to implement less restrictive decision-making options for persons with disabilities. Traditionally, less restrictive alternatives take the form of surrogate decision-making, with a designated decision-maker making the final decision.
Recently, supported decision-making (SDM) has emerged as a cutting edge alternative to guardianship, placing the individual with a disability at the center of the decision-making process. Supported decision-making describes the process by which most individuals make decisions - by consulting with friends, family, social services, community organizations, and and/or other sources of support to weigh the pros and cons of a decision, review potential outcomes, and finally make a choice. The practice of supported decision-making takes many forms - from recognition of organic decision-making networks to formal, written supported decision-making agreements.
SDM is gaining support among practitioners, courts and state legislatures. It has been recognized and endorsed by the Administration for Community Livingof the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which funds the National Resource Center for Supported Decision-Making and has gained international recognition, notably in the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
Supported Decision-making Resolution
In August 2017 the ABA House of Delegates adopted a resolution on supported decision-making as a less restrictive alternative to guardianship.
Slides and Resources on Supported Decision - Making
Videos and Publications
- In Your Hands: The Tools for Preserving Personal Autonomy
Narrated by the late Helen Hayes, with an epilogue by her son, James MacArthur, this video addresses the legal aspects of planning for incapacity in a clear and positive way, and introduces four legal tools: durable powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney, living wills and trusts. 1994. 19 minutes.
- List of Guardianship Video Resources (As of August 2019)
- State Guardianship Handbooks This list includes state guides for adult guardians concerning the adult guardianship process and duties for both guardians of person and guardians of property (frequently called conservators). The guides are by state bar associations, state courts, state agencies, universities, guardianship associations and others. (June 2019)
- Volunteer Guardianship Monitoring Handbooks
A concise, four-part handbook on volunteer guardianship monitoring. It guides court staff step by step in developing a volunteer guardianship monitoring and assistance program, recruiting and training volunteers, and compiling community information volunteers will need. Detailed forms and appendices are adaptable locally. For technical assistance in using the handbooks for your court, contact Erica Wood.
- Managing Someone Else's Money Guides
Millions of Americans are managing money or property for a loved one who is unable to pay bills or make financial decisions. Here are four easy-to-understand booklets to help financial caregivers. Written by the Commission and published by the CFPB, the guides are for agents under powers of attorney, court-appointed guardians, trustees, and government fiduciaries (Social Security representative payees and VA fiduciaries).
- Guardianship After 25 Years: In the Best Interest of Incapacitated People?
by Pamela Teaster, Erica Wood, Winsor Schmidt, and Susan Lawrence
This report includes extensive site visit studies of seven programs; an update on state models of public guardianship or guardianship of last resort; conclusions and recommendations, a model public guardianship act; statutory and programmatic profiles of each state's system of public guardianship or guardianship of last resort; and statutory charts. 203 pp. Jan. 2008. Executive summary.
- State-Level Guardianship Data: An Exploratory Survey
by Erica Wood
Guardianship is a critical protection for at-risk, frequently elderly individuals. However, it is also a drastic intervention in which the guardian is given substantial and often complete authority over the lives of vulnerable wards, and press accounts have detailed significant instances of malfeasance and exploitation. Aug. 2006.
- Guardianship Monitoring: A National Survey of Court Practices
by Naomi Karp and Erica Wood
This report by AARP’s Public Policy Institute, in collaboration with the ABA Commission on Law and Aging, explores court oversight of guardians, appointed when an adult lacks capacity to make decisions for him or herself. The paper reports the findings of a 2005 national survey of 387 experts. June 2006.
- Judicial Determination of Capacity of Older Adults in Guardianship Proceedings
by the ABA Commission on Law and Aging, American Psychological Association, and National College of Probate Judges
This book contains practical tools to equip a wide audience of judges to conduct any form of guardianship proceeding more effectively, improve communication with healthcare professionals, creatively use less-restrictive alternatives and limited guardianships, and accommodate disabilities of older adults in ways that will enhance capacity. 2006. ISBN 978-1-59031-764-8. Product Code: 4280026.
- Wards of the State: A National Study of Public Guardianship
by Pamela B. Teaster, Erica F. Wood, Naomi Karp, Susan A. Lawrence, Winsor C. Schmidt, Jr., and Marta Meniondo.
This report marks the first nationwide examination of public guardianship in 25 years--since the landmark study by Prof. Winsor Schmidt and colleagues, Public Guardianship and the Elderly, published in 1981. The report is the result of a comprehensive review of existing literature and law, a national survey of key contacts in all 51 jurisdictions concerning public guardianship programs and practices (with a 100% response rate), in-depth interviews in seven states, and extensive site visits in three states (Florida, Kentucky, Illinois). April 2005. Executive Summary.
- Good Guardianship: State Court Partnerships with the Aging Network
These brochures encourage collaboration in guardianship practices between the court system and the aging network. The idea is that by working together, courts and aging organizations— such as agencies on aging, adult protective services (APS), and long-term care ombudsmen—can tackle some of the difficult barriers to good guardianship practice in a cost-effective way. The objective is to get courts and service providers or advocates in the aging field talking to each other about specific constructive improvements in guardianship in their area.
Additional archived articles on Guardianship and Supported Decision Making available on request.