What Problems Does AB 1663 Solve?
A pipeline that creates unnecessary conservatorships
Too often, families of people with disabilities are told by schools, lawyers, medical providers, or other families that they must seek a conservatorship to “protect” their loved one. This is called the “pipeline to conservatorship.”
- AB 1663 recognizes supported decision-making (SDM) as a valid way that people with disabilities can choose trusted supporters to help them understand, make, and communicate their own choices
- AB 1663 creates a statewide Supported Decision-Making Technical Assistance Program to provide training, technical assistance, and grants to promote and strengthen the use of supported decision-making
A court process that is almost always pre-determined
While courts are required to seek the least restrictive option for supporting people with disabilities, the reality is courts often treat conservatorships as a routine matter without any consideration to alternatives that keep a person’s rights intact. Probate conservatorships are often established without the person with a disability even showing up to court or having zealous representation.
- AB 1663 requires courts to consider alternatives before establishing a conservatorship and assess a person’s abilities and capacity with supports, not in isolation
- AB 1663 establishes a Conservatorship Alternatives Program in all courts to identify conservatorship petitions where less-restrictive options may be appropriate and to discuss and educate parties on these alternatives
A system that traps people in conservatorship
Probate conservatorships in California are effectively permanent. Most conserved people do not know they have the right or do not know how to ask the court to end their conservatorship. Petitioning to end a conservatorship can require a conservatee to submit complicated legal documents alone, usually without the help of a lawyer.
- AB 1663 provides conservatees with understandable information that describes their rights and who to contact if they wish to change or end the conservatorship
- AB 1663 requires courts to ensure the conservatee has a lawyer and set a termination hearing if a conservatee requests to terminate their conservatorship
- AB 1663 allows courts to terminate a conservatorship without a hearing if both the conservator and conservatee agree to the termination
People in conservatorships have no rights to make choices
Most people under conservatorship lose all of their autonomy and rights, even those in “limited” conservatorships. Their preferences may be completely ignored, and they may not be involved or even notified about important choices that affect their lives. The law already says that conservators should respect the wishes of conservatees as far as possible, but this doesn’t always happen.
- AB 1663 requires conservators to consult with and make decisions aligned with the conservatee’s communicated wishes, including the use of alternative communication methods or previously expressed preferences
- AB 1663 applies the “order of preference” to all conservators, including for regional centers, to ensure the court first consider family members or other trusted individuals before appointing unrelated parties
- AB 1663 requires conservators to support the capacity and abilities of conservatees and to encourage and facilitate the use of supported decision-making within conservatorships to the greatest extent possible.