Supported Decision Making in Florida

Big News out of Tallahassee last month! Supported Decision Making was recently signed into law in Florida, where I practice law. I am a member of the elder law section of the Florida Bar and we were supporting this bill. Approximately 12% of Floridians have some type of cognitive disability.

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Supported Decision-Making is a process we all use to make life choices. All individuals need help making decisions in everyday life. If a professional we want services from, uses a specialized term for their business or procedures, it could be tough to understand, almost like a foreign language. For example,  a physician may recommend a “CAT Scan” or thermogram, or a banker might advise you about a Certificate of Deposit. So, we ask for help from family members, friends, or any other trusted person to help us understand. We can make good decisions when we gather information and facts to educate us on what to do. This is Supported Decision-Making.  Everyone does this to one extent or another.

This process can be formalized in a written agreement where you detail all the areas in your life that you would like support in making your decisions. In the agreement, you can say who the individuals are that you want to support you in each area, and how you do and do not want to be supported. For example, you might want to make your sister your supporter for deciding your residence. You could state that your sister will help you make a list of amenities you want in an apartment complex, visit apartments with you, and help you set up automatic rent payments. You could also state that you don’t want your sister to talk to your landlord without you.


Larger decisions can be difficult.  You have the right to make choices.  You can ask for support to make your decisions. This means that you will be making the decision, not someone making the decisions for you or instead of you. 

The person or persons that will support you are chosen by you. The supporters can help you make informed decisions in the following ways:

  • Collecting and communicating with you about information that is related to a decision;
  • Explaining the risks and benefits of options;
  • Giving guidance and recommendations; and
  • Assisting you in communicating and carrying out the decision
  • Helping you understand and explore your options;

Ultimately, the final decision is left up to you. A Supported Decision-Making Agreement can be written out and signed by all parties, but signed writing is not required.

What’s so great about this new law?

It is another option besides guardianship.

This new law will protect the dignity, autonomy, and rights of Floridians with disabilities.  The law creates a supportive legal structure to assist persons with developmental disabilities who have decision-making challenges to conduct their affairs independently and with assistance but without the need for guardianship. 

If you remember, guardianship is a last resort and courts do not want to take away people’s rights if there are other options.

This law allows a person with decision-making challenges to appoint a trusted person to help communicate wishes on important topics like health care, employment, relationships, and finances. The disabled person would still have the final say on important life choices, but under a supported decision-making agreement, would receive assistance as they compare options and communicate their decisions.


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