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  • By Elizabeth Wolleben Yoder
  • Posted June 29, 2022

Maryland Joins Other States With Supported Decision Making Documents Procedures

In October 2022, Maryland will join the list of states that have official procedures regarding Supported Decision Making documents. Maryland sits in the first third of states who have codified Supported Decision Making into law, with other states not taking steps to do so.

Supported decision-making (SDM) is a legal tool that people with neurodiverse disabilities can establish to name supporters to help them make choices. The person then retains more of their own ability to be the director of their own life. It is a step separate from and beyond the power of attorney documents and is uniquely its own tool. With a power of attorney document, a person with the capacity and authority to do so names someone to make decisions on their own behalf, a SDM agreement does no such thing. The individual never gives up control of making the decision. They just add an additional person to help make an informed and complete decision.

An individual can name one or more supporters to help with making important legal decisions, not limited to medical, opening accounts, and voting. The role of the supporter is to help gather information, communicate with third-party professionals, when necessary, like medical and legal professionals, and support without inserting personal opinions with their understanding of what the person’s preferences are. This is an additional role and does not have to be the same person as the agent on the power of attorney documents. The supporter has no authority whatsoever to make an alternative decision for the individual or on the individual’s behalf. They are obligated to keep records and maintain the safekeeping of decisions that they are helping to inform.

A person with a neurodiverse disability can name additional people who they trust to help them with major life decisions including friends and family with the understanding that it does come with legal responsibilities of this record-keeping responsibility (there are some data security requirements).

SDM assumes that every adult has the ability to name someone to help them make decisions and does not prove or disprove competence in law, though it can be used in a case of rolling back guardianship.

The law is not active in Maryland until October. There is no formal agreement on what a document would look like in Maryland, but Maryland can use examples from DC and Delaware to build their own agreement structure.

While Supported Decision Making as a legal framework is new and slightly different from the current legal structures of tight support, such as in guardianship and conservatorship, and loos support, as in the power of attorney documents, the idea is similar and can be used in conjunction with any of the previous documents. SDM has the potential to be used not only with disabled young people to support an independent life but also for older adults who are looking to maintain as much control of their lives as possible while needing extra support.

Contact Planning Across The Spectrum for certified neurodiverse financial planning services.