It’s wise to consider executing a California advance health care directive, which allows you to appoint a person as your agent in making health-related decisions in the event that you are unable to do so. Without this type of power of attorney, you are in a serious predicament if you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated: Your spouse, family members, and other interested individuals would have to go to court to get permission on certain medical issues. Plus, the law may not recognize your wishes regarding end-of-life care and organ donation upon your passing. You should discuss the details of an advance directive with an experienced California estate planning attorney, but a review of the six main parts of the form should help.
Part 1: In this section, you designate an agent to make health care decisions on your behalf; you may consider appointing an alternative if the first person is unable or unavailable. You’ll also outline the specifics of your agent’s authority and when the powers become effective, such as when your doctor determines you cannot make your own decisions.
Part 2: This section includes specific instructions for your agent on health care issues such as whether or not to prolong your life and the administration of treatments to alleviate pain. You can add your own instructions here as well.
Part 3: If you desire to donate your organs upon death, you can do so here. You can also list which organs you’d like to give and for which purposes.
Part 4: Though optional, you can designate a doctor as your primary physician, along with another provider if your first choice is not able to attend to your medical needs.
Part 5: In this section, you’ll officially sign the advance directive to make it effective. Part 5 is also where witnesses indicate that they observed you sign the document of your own free will. Proper execution of this portion is critical, as the document is invalid if it’s not properly signed and witnessed by disinterested individuals.
Part 6: If you are a patient in a skilled nursing facility, there are special requirements for witnessing the advance directive.
Discuss Your Estate Planning Needs with an Experienced Lawyer
For more information on advance health care directives and other estate planning documents, please contact the Sonoma County, California Law Office of Charles D. Stark. We can explain more about powers of attorney, and tell you the benefits of including them as part of a comprehensive estate plan.