Senate Bill 1411 (SB 1411) seeks to address an issue we hear from many families: The Guardianship and Conservatorship processes are complicated to the point of being unmanageable for some families. Individuals often need assistance from legal professionals, which they may not be able to afford.
While we believe some complications are unavoidable and even necessary in a process intended to determine if a person should be stripped of their Constitutional rights, we also believe that families engaging in this process need more support.
We believe that SB 1411 is the wrong solution to this issue. SB 1411 proposes that all Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) members should be automatically stripped of their rights and placed under guardianship on their 18th birthday. These are some, but not all, of the major concerns we have with this proposal:
- Determination of eligibility for DDD services is not appropriate or adequate to be used for determination of incapacity or the inability to be independent.
- Human rights should never be taken away from anyone without due process.
- SB 1411 seems to have at its center a prejudicial assumption that people with disabilities are inherently incapable of making decisions about their own lives. This is deeply troubling and could not be further from the truth. A majority people with developmental disabilities do not need guardianship. In fact, many families choose to forego guardianship in favor of Supported Decision Making (SDM). This allows their family members with disabilities to continue to lead self-directed lives with support from trusted family members and friends.
We understand the difficulty families face when making decisions about how to balance independence and safety for their family members as they become adults. We offer a training specifically to address many of the questions families have about available options and where to start in whichever process they choose. We also know that the process of applying for guardianship and conservatorship can be burdensome for families.
There are better solutions to this issue. We support Senate Bill 1038 (SB 1038) which would establish a probate advisory council to propose improvements to guardianship and conservatorship. We believe this is a much more thoughtful and appropriate way to approach improving these processes that are often overwhelming for families.
If you would like to add your voice to the opposition to SB 1411, you can do so through the Legislature’s Request To Speak (RTS) system at: https://apps.azleg.gov/RequestToSpeak/Agenda/15907