Access to Justice: Supported Decision-Making Agreements

decisions.png

With the passage of HB 39 and SB 1881 by the 84th Legislature, Texas became the first state to enact legislation allowing individuals with an intellectual/developmental disability (I/DD) greater autonomy in the making of personal decisions while still retaining their rights. Prior to the passage of the Supported Decision-Making Agreement Act (codified at Tex. Estates Code ch. 1357), individuals with an I/DD were forced to relinquish their rights, and all decisions were then made by the person appointed as guardian, including such choices as where to live, where to work, and which doctors to use. The Act's stated purpose is to provide a less restrictive alternative to guardianship for those adults who require assistance with day-to-day decisions but who are not considered incapacitated for guardianship purposes. Under the Act, an individual with an I/DD may appoint a caregiver to assist the individual with making decisions, including helping the individual understand any consequences of the decision, collecting relevant information to aid in the making of the decision, and assisting with the communication of the individual’s wishes. Note that the agreement may be terminated at any time by either party.

 TexasLawHelp.org, a program of the Texas Legal Services Center, has made available on its website a free Supported Decision-Making Agreement. With this form, a person with an I/DD is able to choose a trusted caregiver, referred to as a “supporter,” to assist with the making of the decisions indicated by the individual. The form specifically states that the supporter does not make the decisions for the individual and allows the individual to identify the types of decisions for which he/she needs the assistance of the supporter.

In connection with the Supported Decision-Making Agreement form, TexasLawHelp.org provides an additional form: an authorization to release confidential information under a supported decision-making agreement. This form allows the supporter to obtain information about the individual with an I/DD that would have been private and otherwise protected.