What is a supporter?
A supporter is someone Tom chooses to help him make certain life decisions, including decisions relating to where and with whom he wants to live, where he wants to work, and the services and medical care he wants to receive. The supported decision-making agreement signed by Tom and the supporter (you) determines which types of decisions the supporter can help make and what the supporter can do to help make them. But in the end, Tom is entitled to make his own decisions, and the supporter’s job is only to help him do so. A supporter must not pressure Tom into substituting the supporter’s wants for Tom’s.
What are my obligations as a supporter?
As supporter, you have an obligation to help Tom make certain decisions as specified in the signed agreement. The agreement may allow you to access and collect certain information for Tom, such as medical, financial, or educational records. You must collect only information that is necessary for making the particular decision that the agreement allows. You should share the information you gather with Tom and make sure he understands it so that he can make better decisions. You should also help him understand all of his options. Once he makes a decision, you should help him do whatever is necessary to communicate that decision to anyone who needs to know.
Can Tom still manage his money and property after signing a supported decision-making agreement?
Yes, having you as a upporter does not undermine Tom's decision-making authority. Your job is to make sure Tom has all the information and support he needs to make good decisions as specified in the agreement.
Can I be sued for my actions as a supporter?
Probably. The supported decision-making agreement structure is new to Texas, but you have specific fiduciary duties under the law. If you breach those duties by acting in bad faith, acting beyond the authority in the agreement, being disloyal to Tom, acting in your own interest, or creating a conflict of interest, it is possible that Tom or another person could bring a legal claim against you. At the time of this Guide’s publication, no Texas court has addressed this type of legal claim against a supporter. But you should still make sure that you live up to the trust and confidence that Tom has put in you as a supporter.
Can a supported decision-making agreement be changed or revoked?
Yes, you and Tom can agree to change the supported decision-making agreement, and either of you can revoke (terminate) the agreement at any time.
What if I think a change to the agreement was the result of fraud or abuse?
If you think Tom does not understand a decision he made to take away your authority as his supporter, then talk to a lawyer, contact adult protective services, or call the police or sheriff. There is more information on fraud and abuse as well as where you can go for help on page 24 at the back of this Guide.
Do I have to serve as Tom’s supporter?
No, a supported decision-making agreement requires your consent to be effective, and you can terminate the agreement at any time.
What happens if I can no longer serve as Tom’s supporter?
You should step down if you can no longer serve as supporter, and you can try to help arrange for another person to serve as Tom’s supporter.
What happens if Tom can no longer make his own decisions?
If Tom becomes incapacitated—that is, if he becomes unable to care for himself or to manage his own affairs—the supported decision-making agreement becomes unenforceable and you lose your authority to help Tom. In that case, it may be necessary for Tom to have a legal guardian, agent under a power of attorney, or other authorized person to act on his behalf.
When do my responsibilities end?
Your responsibilities as Tom’s supporter last until the time that the signed agreement says they end or until either you or Tom decide you will not serve as his supporter any longer. If a guardian is appointed, or if Tom loses the capacity to make decisions, you lose the authority as the supporter to assist Tom in making decisions.
Don’t expect others to know what a supporter is or does.
Others may not understand that Tom has authorized you as his supporter to help him. They may think you have more authority or less authority than you really have. You may need to educate them. You could show them this Guide and a copy of the supported decision-making agreement you and Tom signed.
Supported decision-making agreements are relatively new to Texas. They are governed by Chapter 1357 of the Texas Estates Code.
It can be difficult to remember new terms. If you need a refresher on what those terms mean, go to Let's Review Some Vocabulary.