California law allows people to sign advance health care directives, which combine living wills and healthcare powers of attorney in single legal documents. A health care directive states that a certain person can make decisions about your medical care and end-of-life care if you cannot decide yourself because you are incapacitated. Before you sign a health care directive, learn about the living will versus the power of attorney and what you can list in your directive.
A living will describes the types of medical care and treatment that you want to receive or do not want to receive. In contrast, a healthcare power of attorney grants another person the ability to make healthcare decisions for you if you are incapacitated. Incapacitated could mean unconscious, in a coma, or otherwise unable to make decisions for yourself.
Living wills can include a variety of different preferences for medical care, including:
- Pain relief
- Use of feeding tube
- Artificial respiration
- Hospice care
- Life support
Sometimes, living wills describe a wish to have life prolonged as long as possible within generally accepted healthcare standards. Conversely, people may decide that they do not want their life prolonged if they have incurable and irreversible medical conditions leading to death, or they most likely will not regain consciousness.
Making decisions about these issues for yourself or for a relative can be extremely difficult and emotional. We encourage you to speak to your family and any trusted religious or spiritual advisors when deciding on the content of a living will.
Advance Health Care Directive
Again, an advance health care directive is a legally binding document that combines a living will with a healthcare power of attorney. Usually this document is only a few pages long, but it includes a lot of important information about managing your health.
Please keep in mind that while a properly executed advance health care directive is recognized in California, not all other U.S. states and foreign countries may recognize it. Talk to your attorney about drafting and signing a directive and about making your decisions known outside California. Finally, make sure you have the directive properly witnessed and signed, so it is effective should you need it.
Planning your estate? Look to Janet Brewer, Esq. for thorough and thoughtful estate planning advice. Janet’s more than 20 years of legal experience will give you confidence and peace of mind. To schedule a “Get Acquainted” meeting, visit Janet's website or call her office at (650) 469-8206.