SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Brian Maienschein’s AB 1663, the Probate Conservatorship and Supported Decision-Making Act, passed out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee this morning.
Probate conservatorships are often presented as the only option for people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities and people with age-related disabilities such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. These individuals can find themselves trapped in a system that strips them of their basic civil rights and their ability to advocate for themselves. Less-restrictive alternatives to probate conservatorships do exist, including supported decision-making (SDM).
SDM allows people with disabilities to choose trusted supporters to help them understand, evaluate and communicate their own choices without losing their individual rights and by avoiding unnecessary court intervention. AB 1663 recognizes SDM in statute, ensuring that probate courts prioritize less-restrictive alternatives to conservatorship.
“At its core, this is a civil rights issue for people with disabilities," said Maienschein. “This bill will ensure that these individuals maintain choice and control over their lives while still receiving support from those closest to them.”
AB 1663 reforms California’s probate conservatorship system in four key areas:
- DEFLECT – Limits probate conservatorships by recognizing alternatives such as SDM.
- DIVERT – Requires the court to consider less-restrictive alternatives before establishing probate conservatorships.
- DISSOLVE – Makes probate conservatorships easier to end by making conservatees aware of their rights as individuals, honoring their wishes to terminate a conservatorship, and allowing courts to terminate the conservatorship without a hearing if both the conservator and conservatee agree to termination.
- DECIDE – Ensures conservatees have choice in their lives by requiring conservators to consult with and make decisions aligned with the conservatee’s wishes or previously expressed wishes, and facilitate the use of SDM to the greatest extent possible.
“These changes are long overdue,” said Eric Harris, Director of Public Policy for Disability Rights California. “But we are grateful that California is now one step closer to passing legislation that will prevent disabled people and older adults from being funneled into a system that deprives them of their basic, fundamental right to make decisions for themselves.”
The Britney Spears conservatorship case highlighted deep flaws in California’s probate conservatorship system and was a prime example of how easily people can become trapped in a system that offers them no control or choice in their daily lives. AB 1663 makes much-needed reforms to the system to help people with disabilities retain their rights as individuals.
AB 1663 will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee later this spring.