Finance Experts Warn: 66% of Californians Don’t Have a Key Estate Planning Document

A recently reported statistic may come as a shock to many Californians who think their estate planning bases are covered after executing a will.

Around two-thirds of all Americans have not prepared a health care directive, according to a December 13, 2019 article written by a personal finance specialist at Forbes. The author noted the irony of this figure, pointing out that California was the first US state to enact a law regarding health care directives back in 1976. 

The California Probate Code covers the requirements and process for executing an Advance Health Care Directive, sometimes referred to as a health care power of attorney. Through this document, it is possible for a person, as principal, to appoint an agent to make health care decisions on his or her behalf. If the principal becomes incapacitated, the agent steps into his or her shoes to manage medical procedures, treatment, and related care. In addition, the statute enables the principle to:

  • Provide specific instructions regarding certain medical issues, such as end-of-life care and pain relief;
  • Designate his or her wishes regarding donation of organs; and,
  • Identify a physician who has primary responsibility for medical care.

Charles D. Stark, a Sonoma County attorney who focuses on wills, trusts, and estate planning strategies, was not surprised to learn that 66 percent of individuals have not executed an Advance Health Care Directive.

“Far too many people think they’re done with their estate plan after creating a will or trust, not realizing critical gaps. A comprehensive, well-crafted estate plan isn’t just what happens to your property at death. It should also cover what happens if you’re incapacitated and unable to make decisions on your own.” Mr. Stark described the challenging situation that individuals could encounter without a health care power of attorney, especially for family and loved ones. “If you don’t have a directive, your medical care might be on hold. Even though you might express your wishes to someone, this doesn’t have the effect of law. Without a power of attorney, the only way your spouse, children, or others can get authority to make health care decisions is to go to court. They’d have to file a petition to act as your guardian, which can take some time – particularly when they can’t agree.” By preparing an Advance Health Care Directive, the principal gives the agent decision making authority via the document rather than the court process. There are certain requirements involved with the execution process, specifically with respect to having individuals observe and sign as witnesses.

Contact Charles D. Stark Attorney And Counselor At Law today.


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