Advance Health Care Directives

Advance Health Care Directives

An important part of estate planning is enabling our clients to ensure that their desires concerning medical treatment and “end of life” care are carried out.

Under California law, all persons have the right to give instructions about their own health care, and to name someone else to make health care decisions for them if they cannot make those decisions themselves. In the absence of such instructions, the medical care of an incapacitated patient can be the subject of protracted court proceedings, with no guarantee that the patient’s actual (but unwritten) wishes will be honored. Many aspects of estate planning are a concern of the very wealthy, but medical care issues affect everyone. So I believe that all estate plans should include some form of health care instructions.

Instructions can be stated in a variety of formats, such as powers of attorney for health care, living wills, and do not resuscitate (“DNR”) orders. Under current California law, any or all of those formats can be combined into a single document called an “Advance Health Care Directive.” Using an Advance Health Care Directive, a person (the “principal”) may appoint a health care agent who has the authority to make decisions about the principal’s medical care if the principal is unable to make those decisions.

This portion of the Directive functions as the power of attorney for health care. I recommend that my clients provide written health care wishes in the Directive, such as a desire not to receive treatment that only prolongs the dying process during a terminal illness. This portion of the Directive carries out the functions of a living will or DNR order.

Related: Probate & Trusts Overview

Related: Probate FAQ