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California AB 1194: Strengthening Conservatorship Laws for People with Mental Health and Addiction Challenges

California AB 1194
News & Blog Jun 20, 2023

This bill was signed by the Governor in 2021 and the findings are due back by January of 2024 from the Judicial Counsel. This has many fiduciaries shying away from serving as Conservators, so what are likely to be the impacts of this Bill on the options people have when they are unable to care for themselves and can good estate planning help avoid the need for any court-supervised help in certain cases?

AB 1194, also known as the Conservatorship Bill, is legislation introduced by the California State Assembly to reform and strengthen conservatorship laws within the state. This bill seeks to address the challenges faced by individuals with serious mental health issues or substance abuse problems, who may require involuntary treatment and support for their well-being and the safety of the community. In this article, we delve into the key provisions and potential impacts of AB 1194 on the conservatorship process in California, aiming to provide a comprehensive understanding of its significance.

The current conservatorship laws in California have been criticized for being inadequate and restrictive in cases where individuals may pose a danger to themselves or others due to severe mental health conditions or substance abuse disorders. AB 1194 aims to rectify these limitations by expanding the criteria for conservatorship, thereby allowing for better intervention and treatment options. The bill emphasizes a compassionate and holistic approach that balances the rights and autonomy of individuals with the need for their protection and the safety of the community.

AB 1194 proposes several important changes to the existing criteria for conservatorship. One significant change is the inclusion of substance abuse disorders alongside serious mental health conditions as qualifying criteria for conservatorship. This expansion acknowledges the complex nature of substance abuse and the need to provide comprehensive support and treatment for affected individuals. By broadening the eligibility criteria, AB 1194 seeks to ensure that individuals struggling with substance abuse disorders can receive the necessary care and rehabilitation.

The bill also introduces measures to encourage voluntary participation in treatment programs. It emphasizes the importance of early intervention and outreach services, aiming to provide assistance to individuals before their condition worsens. AB 1194 promotes the establishment of community-based mental health programs that offer counseling, rehabilitation, and other supportive services. These initiatives aim to create a supportive environment that encourages individuals to seek help voluntarily, reducing the need for involuntary conservatorships while promoting long-term recovery.

AB 1194 also seems to acknowledge the need to streamline the conservatorship process to ensure timely intervention and effective treatment. Anybody who has ever gone through the conservatorship process in a California Probate Court knows it is not efficient and leaves people feeling lost in the system. The bill proposes shorter timelines for hearings and assessments to expedite the conservatorship process while maintaining due process rights. It also seeks to address the shortage of mental health professionals by permitting certain qualified individuals, such as psychiatric nurse practitioners and physician assistants, to conduct evaluations and assessments. These measures aim to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the conservatorship process, facilitating the timely access to treatment for individuals in need.

While AB 1194 expands the criteria for conservatorship, it also incorporates robust safeguards to protect the rights and autonomy of individuals. The bill emphasizes the importance of least restrictive alternatives, ensuring that involuntary treatment is only pursued when absolutely necessary. It also establishes an Office of the Public Guardian to oversee conservatorship cases, ensuring accountability and monitoring the implementation of the law. Additionally, AB 1194 mandates regular reviews of conservatorship cases to assess the ongoing necessity and appropriateness of the involuntary treatment.

AB 1194 represents a significant step forward in enhancing conservatorship laws in California. By expanding the criteria for conservatorship, promoting voluntary services, and streamlining the process, the bill aims to improve the access to care and support for individuals with serious mental health conditions or substance abuse disorders. At the same time, AB 1194 emphasizes the importance of protecting individual rights and autonomy, ensuring that involuntary treatment is pursued as a last resort. Through these comprehensive reforms, the bill seeks to strike a balance between the need for intervention and the preservation of individual dignity. But, like everything else, the devil is in the details, and in the ways this new law is implemented by the court system. While the Public Guardian review system proposed by this legislation is intended to provide checks and balances, we may find it is just another layer of bureaucracy adding costs and delays to an already expensive and slow process.

If someone in your family has disabilities, including mental health or addiction issues, and needs intervention or a court appointed individual to help care for them, it may be appropriate to consult with an attorney who handles Conservatorships to see if that is the best option to protect a loved one.

Please find the full text of the Bill here.


Ms. Minto has been a business and estates transactional attorney based in California since 2003. Her practice is now located in Tustin, CA but represents individuals and entities based throughout the United States and abroad. Phone: (949) 253-0000, Email:


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