By Abigail V. Poole, Esq.
“A friend of mine was telling me about a bill in the Massachusetts legislature for supported decision-making – do you know anything about that?” I explained to my client that supported decision-making is a nationwide movement to develop legal guidelines to permit an adult with intellectual or developmental disabilities, such as Autism or Down Syndrome, to make his or her own health and financial decisions with the support of family members, friends and professionals. These “supporters” are a team, ranging from two to ten trusted individuals, who help the disabled person by discussing the advantages and disadvantages of a decision. The supporters’ roles are outlined in an agreement with the disabled adult who retains the authority to make the final decision for him- or herself.
A supported decision-making agreement is an alternative to a Guardianship in certain situations. Oftentimes, a Guardian is appointed by the court to make health care decisions on behalf of a disabled adult. A Guardianship can be needlessly restrictive on a disabled adult’s independence, especially when the disabled adult is capable of making the decision about his or her own care if individualized support and discussion is available.
To date, around ten states have enacted supported decision-making legislation, and Massachusetts has conducted a successful pilot program utilizing supported decision-making. In March 2021, the proposed Massachusetts bills were referred to the Joint Committee on Children, Family and Persons with Disabilities.
At Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC, an attorney who is up-to-date about the latest trends and legislation can discuss the current and potential options available for you and your family, and guide you through the preparation of an estate plan to assist your family member with special needs.
Attorney Abigail V. Poole is an associate attorney with the Dedham firm of Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC which focuses on advising its clients in the areas of estate planning, estate settlement and elder law matters. She is an active member and current Vice President of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). This article is not intended to provide legal advice or create or imply an attorney-client relationship. No information contained herein is a substitute for a personal consultation with an attorney. For more information visit ssbllc.com or call 781/461-1020.
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