Guardianship is the legal means by which a person’s right to make her/his own decisions is taken away and given to another- the Guardian. Because it deprives the person of most or all of her/his legal and civil rights, the Constitution requires that guardianship is the “least restrictive means” to protect the person. Often the specific issues that cause parents to seek guardianship can be solved by other legal means like health care proxies, Social Security representative payee status and/or Special Needs Trusts (SNTs).

Supported decision-making (SDM) is increasingly being recognized as a preferable and less restrictive means to guardianship. By providing a person with an intellectual or developmental disability with supports from trusted people in her/his life, s/he is able to make her/his own decisions and retain all her/his legal and civil rights.

As a less restrictive alternative, SDM can be used to avoid the necessity for guardianship in the first place, or as a means to restore the rights to persons already under guardianship.