Alternatives to Guardianship

While Guardianship is the most well-known decision-making option, there are alternatives available. You can explore these alternatives before pursuing guardianship. Since guardianship is a legal process, it can often take more time than some of these alternatives. Guardianship is also permanent, whereas these options provide more flexibility.


A POA empowers someone to make financial or medical decisions, as well as decisions about services. POA legally authorizes another person (agent) to make decisions on behalf of another individual (principal). This is not a legal process. The forms can be accessed online and notarized to make official. This can be revoked by the principal at any time. If you are looking at POA, you will need to make sure you have medical and/or financial. You also want to make sure the paperwork indicates “durable”. You will want to get POA forms notarized.

You can learn more about Power of Attorney in Colorado here.


These are a new resource and alternative for guardianship.  Instead of naming a guardian or POA, individuals will create a supportive community that names specific individuals in their life that can help them make decision.  The bill that authorized these agreements just passed in the 2021 session, so watch for more information!


A person assigned by the courts to make financial decisions regarding the estate of a protected person (in this case an individual with I/DD). This process is like guardianship in that you will have to go to the courts to be appointed. However, individuals with I/DD often have limited assets to qualify for Medicaid Waiver programs so this may not be necessary.

You can learn more about Conservatorship and the process here.


Term used by Social Security Administration (SSA) to identify a person that is appointed to manage benefits paid to the individual. A Rep. Payee may be appointed by the individual, guardian or POA. This role is limited to dealing with SSA. Even if you have guardianship, you will want to apply to be a Rep Payee.

You can learn more about a Rep Payee here.


These can be used by a parent or interest party to get medical information about an adult over the age of 18. This empowers a specific individual to get health information. Most medical practices or organizations that follow HIPAA have a form that you can ask to fill out.

You can learn more about the various forms and protected health information here.


A person empowered to make medical decisions such as consenting or refusing treatment, when an individual is found to lack decision-making capacity. This is usual temporary and may be something you want to have in place if the individual is temporary incapacitated.


Legal documents that specify courses of action to take regarding medical decisions and choices if an individual is incapacitated and can no longer make decisions.


This is recognized only in the I/DD system and can be designated by the individual to assist with meetings, information, appealing decisions, etc.

Note: This is NOT the same as the Authorized Representative needed in Consumer-Directed Attendant Supports and Services (CDASS).

To learn (even) more:

The Arc Arapahoe & Douglas:

The Arc of Aurora/Think+Change: Supporting Self Determination