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Tampa Business Litigation Attorneys / Blog / Guardianship / Beyond Guardianship: Empowering Individuals with Supportive Decision-Making Alternatives

Beyond Guardianship: Empowering Individuals with Supportive Decision-Making Alternatives


Guardianship can be a necessary solution for individuals who are unable to make their own decisions due to disability, age, or illness. It is a last resort due to its restrictive nature because it effectively strips individuals of their autonomy. In Tampa, there are several less restrictive alternatives that can provide the needed support while allowing individuals to maintain more control over their lives. At Bleakley Bavol Denman & Grace in Tampa, Florida, our lawyers work with our clients to consider these alternatives and how they can be effectively utilized.

Supported Decision-Making Agreements

Supported decision-making (SDM) agreements are an innovative approach that empowers individuals to make their own decisions with the assistance of trusted advisors. In an SDM agreement, the individual selects supporters who help them understand, consider, and communicate decisions. In Tampa, SDM agreements are gaining recognition as a valuable tool for promoting independence while providing necessary support.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that allows an individual (the principal) to designate another person (the agent) to make decisions on their behalf. There are different types of POAs, including durable, healthcare, and financial POAs. A durable POA remains in effect even if the principal becomes incapacitated. Healthcare and financial POAs allow the agent to make medical and financial decisions, respectively. The key benefit of a POA is that it can be customized to the principal’s needs, granting specific powers to the agent while preserving the principal’s overall autonomy.

Health Care Surrogate Designation

Designating a health care surrogate involves appointing someone to make medical decisions if the individual is unable to do so. This is a proactive way to ensure that medical preferences are respected without resorting to guardianship. The designation can include specific instructions about treatment preferences, end-of-life care, and other health-related issues. By choosing a trusted surrogate, individuals can have peace of mind knowing their healthcare decisions will be handled according to their wishes.

Living Wills and Advance Directives

Living wills and advance directives are essential tools for planning future healthcare. A living will specifies an individual’s preferences regarding medical treatments in situations where they are unable to communicate their decisions. An advance directive encompasses a living will and may also appoint a healthcare proxy or surrogate. These documents ensure that an individual’s healthcare preferences are honored, reducing the need for guardianship by clearly outlining their wishes.

Representative Payees

For individuals receiving Social Security benefits who cannot manage their finances, a representative payee can be appointed. The representative payee receives and manages the benefits on behalf of the individual, ensuring that their financial needs are met. This arrangement allows the individual to retain control over other aspects of their life while having their financial matters handled responsibly.


Trusts are another effective alternative to guardianship, particularly for managing assets and providing for an individual’s needs. A trust can be established to manage property and finances, appointing a trustee to oversee the trust’s administration. Special needs trusts, in particular, are designed to benefit individuals with disabilities without jeopardizing their eligibility for public assistance programs. Trusts offer a flexible and comprehensive way to ensure long-term care and financial security.

Voluntary Guardianship

A person who is mentally competent but is incapable of managing their estate by reason of age or physical infirmity may petition a court for a voluntary guardianship. There is no adjudication of incapacity and the individual can terminate the guardianship at any time by filing a notice of its termination. While technically a guardianship, the absence of a finding of incapacity and the ability for the individual to terminate the guardianship allows it to serve as a narrow but occasionally useful lesser restrictive alternative to a full guardianship.

Schedule a Consultation with Our Office Today

In Tampa, guardianship should be considered a last resort due to its significant impact on an individual’s autonomy. The alternatives to guardianship provide effective ways to support individuals while respecting their independence. Schedule a consultation with BBDG Law and our Tampa guardianship lawyers can discuss these options and help you to make informed decisions that align with your values and needs.

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