July 16, 2019

Guardianship and Supported Decision-Making

    Featured Resources

What's New

List of Guardianship Video Resources (As of August 2019) This list of state guardianship education and training videos, updated to 2019, includes many that describe or demonstrate duties of guardians and conservators, and some that also explain the process for appointment.”

Statutory Appeals Provisions in Adult Guardianship chart  States take a variety of approaches to appeals in guardianship cases.  See our updated statutory chart ( Updated July 2019)

Adult Guardianship Statutory Table of Authorities This updated table includes links to state guardianship statutes  (updated July 2019)

Adult Guardian Handbooks by State  This newly updated list (as of June 2019) 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.

2018 Adult Guardian Legislation: Directions of Reform
This 2018 legislative summary includes information on 39 state enactments from 22 states on adult guardianship, as compared with 49 enactments from 25 states in 2017. 

Inventory Requirements in Adult Guardianship Statutes (August 2018)

Five Guardianship Core Statutory Charts- The ABA Commission and Sally Balch Hurme have updated the five guardianship “core statutory charts” These charts cover capacity definition and initiation of proceedings, representation and investigation, notice, conduct and findings, and monitoring. Please let us know if there are any additional updates. (August 2018)

This new Legislative Fact Sheet on Guardianship and the Right to Visitation, Communication, and Interaction, which was made possible with generous support from the Borchard Foundation Center on Law and Aging, offers assistance to lawyers, bar associations, allied professionals, legislative staff, and advocates to make policy recommendations, improve practice, and raise professional awareness about visitation and guardianship.

This chart on Least Restrictive Alternative References in State Guardianship Statutes is current as of June 2018. (By Haldan Blecher, CUNY School of Law, Class of 2019)

This new chart on State Statutes or Court Rules on Guardianship Complaint Processes shows how seven states address complaints by individuals subject to guardianship or by others about the performance of guardians, through December 2017.

New ABA Resolution: ABA adopts Commission on Law and Aging/Commission on Disability Right's Resolution to strengthen safeguards for beneficiaries of Social Security's representative payee program.

Updated Background Check Chart: Criminal and Credit Background Checks for Guardians (by Sally Balch Hurme, March 2018)

Updated State Certification Chart  This updated chart by Sally Balch Hurme gives a state-by-state look at guardian certification, through May 9 2018. 

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

Inventory Requirements in Adult Guardianship Statutes (August 2018)

Guardians ad Litem Charts (August 2018)


III. Health Care Decision-Making: A Guardian's Authority

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.

Consensus Conferences

Third National Guardianship Summit 

Wingspan—The Second National Guardianship Conference

Wingspread—The First National Guardianship Conference

International Guardianship Recommendations

Guardianship Jurisdiction

Find out more about the Commission's Guardianship Jurisdiction project.

Court Volunteer Guardianship Monitoring Handbooks

Find out more about the Commission's Volunteer Guardianship Monitoring Handbooks project.

Supported Decision-Making

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

Guardianship Videos

Guardianship Handbooks

  • 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.

Guardianship Publications

  • 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).
  • WINGS Tips: State Replication Guide For Working Interdisciplinary Networks Of Guardianship Stakeholders
    This publication, produced by the Commission on behalf of the National Guardianship Network, highlights the hallmarks of successful WINGS groups and outlines ten steps for launching and maintaining your own WINGS program.

    Working Interdisciplinary Networks of Guardianship Stakeholders (WINGS) are broad-based, collaborative working groups that drive changes that affect the ways courts and guardians practice, and improve the lives of people who have or may need guardians.

    The National Guardianship Network (NGN) has developed a video introduction, “What is WINGS” by District of Columbia Chief Judge Eric Washington, to improve state adult guardianship practices through collaborative court-community partnerships. The five-minute video is a lead-in to the NGN Replication Guide for WINGS (Working Interdisciplinary Networks of Guardianship Stakeholders). Visit the NGN website  to find the video and a link to the Replication Guide.
  • 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.

Reprint Requests

All ABA content is copyrighted and may be reprinted and/or reproduced by permission only. In some cases, a fee may be charged. To protect the integrity of our authors’ work, we require that articles be reprinted unedited in their entirety. To request permission to reprint or reproduce any ABA content, go to the online reprint/reproduction request form.