Guardianships are a last resort.

These common alternatives can help you to remain as independent as possible.



With individualized supports, almost everyone can make some decisions. Third party providers, in areas such as education, training, and health care, sometimes agree that people can make supported decisions when using their services.


For informal arrangements to work, you need to:

  • Have a strong support network of trusted people.

  • Educate yourself before the appointment.  Have your support person help.

  • Understand the issues and consequences of your decisions. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to succeed.

  • Educate your providers that these are your decisions, and that you need to be involved even if this process takes longer to work through.

  • Insist on having your support person with you when making these decisions.

  • Take an active part in the decision making process. Ask questions, and consider alternatives.




1. Representative Payee (RP):

  • For managing social security benefits only; set up through the Social Security Administration (SSA).

  • Your RP receives your benefit check, and manages your funds.

  • RPs must file an accounting every year with SSA.

  • Once this is set up, it can only be changed or revoked if SSA consents.


2. Bank account provisions:Automatic Bill Paying

  • Eliminates the ongoing need for bill payment assistance.

  • Check with your bank about other options.


3. Legal “Agency” Documents

Here, you to select a trusted “Agent” to act for you, and sign legal documents sharing powers with your Agent.

  • To give powers away, you need to have “capacity.”  Cpaacity is the ability to understand what you are doing, and to understand the consequences of doing or not doing it.  You can’t legally give authority to someone unless you understand what you are doing.


Start now.Get help, if needed, to educate yourself about these and other important concepts:

  • Power, authority

  • Delegate

  • Agent

  • Privacy


  • Waive, or give up, rights


These are some standard legal documents:

  A.  Powers Of Attorney (POA):

Different types of POAs can be prepared, tailored to give as much power away as you, the “Principal,” desire. 

  • Powers need to be effective immediately.

  • Financial POAs are very common and usually are accepted; most adults should have this in place.

  • Less common are POAs for Education, Training programs, Community Mental Health, and Health Care.These give your agent permission to help in these areas of your life. You may have more difficultly getting some providers to accept these, but many will.

  B.  Stand Alone Records Releases:

You can sign releases allowing your educational records (FERPA records) and/or health care records (HIPAA records) to be shared with your Agent.This information can help your Agent to help you.


  C.  Patient Advocate Designation (PAD):

These are not effective unless and until you become unable to participate in your health care or mental health treatment, whereas a Health Care Power of Attorney is effective immediately.Most adults should have this document in place.