Decision Making Standards

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You will help the protected person make decisions or, if necessary, make decisions for the protected person. It is possible that you are not the only decision maker in the protected person's life. There may be a separate guardian, conservator, representative payee, trustee, or healthcare agent. You should make a good faith effort to consult with and cooperate with these others as needed.

In making decisions, you should:

  • consult with the protected person,
  • involve the protected person in the decision making process,
  • explain the available choices, and
  • allow the protected person to make as many decisions as possible.

See our page on the Protected Person’s Rights for more information on their rights to be involved in decision making. Always treat the protected person with courtesy, and respect the protected person's privacy and dignity.

For more information, see "Standards of Practice" published by the National Guardianship Association.


Substituted judgment standard

In making decisions, you should be guided by the protected person's known values and preferences, whether expressed before your appointment or after. In other words, what would the protected person do? This is known as the "substituted judgment" standard, and, no matter what your own personal beliefs are, it should be used as long as the decision being made will not cause harm.

In order to know what the protected person would do, it is important that you become and remain personally involved with the protected person to know about his or her values, preferences, capabilities, limitations, needs, opportunities, and physical and mental health. It is important to discuss the protected person's preferences as soon as possible after appointment and while the protected person is alert and thinking clearly. You may have to make decisions quickly, without the opportunity to consult with the protected person. Some decisions, particularly end-of-life decisions, may need to be made while the protected person cannot communicate.


Best interest standard

Sometimes you should use what is known as the "best interest" standard. Use the "best interest" standard if:

  • the protected person never had decision making capacity;
  • you cannot determine what the protected person would do; or
  • the protected person's values and preferences will cause harm.

Under the "best interest" standard, choose the alternative that is the least intrusive, least restrictive, and most normalizing course of action to accommodate the protected person's limitations.


The impact of money on decisions

Most of your decisions should be guided by what the protected person needs and what the protected person wants, and that, in turn, must be guided by what the protected person can afford. What the protected person can afford would affect the decisions that s/he would make, and it will affect your decisions as well.

For more information, see our pages on Budgeting for the Protected Person.