Estate planning involves far more than planning for your property. Your plan should also protect your legal interests and provide for health care needs in case of emergency. Some of the most effective tools to provide that protection in California are Advance Directives (no “d” at the end of advanced, btw). With a living will and other directives, you can ensure that your wishes for medical care are known, honored and the critical decisions about your care are not delayed by uncertainty.
The dedicated team at Blacksburg law works to build estate plans that provide comprehensive protection for clients and their families. We prepare advance directive documents tailored to individual needs and goals to reduce stress and potential problems in the future.
Understanding Advance Directives in California
The California Statutory Advance Directive is a document that provides instructions and authority to meet needs that could arise in the future. California law allows individuals to create a number of different advance directives for health care, including a medical power of attorney and living will. California bundles those two documents into the Statutory Advance Healthcare Directive (but we’ll talk about them separately as some folks require more robust individualized documents).
These documents only take effect if you become incapacitated and unable to make or communicate your wishes directly to health care providers. Once you create a health care directive, you are free to revoke or change the document at any time unless you become legally incompetent.
The creation of advance directives can prevent the need for family members to petition the court for conservatorship of the person, which is an expensive and lengthy process.
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Medical Power of Attorney
Every adult (18 years of age and older) in California should have prepared is a medical power of attorney or power of attorney for health care. With this document, you can designate someone as your agent empowered to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated and not able to make decisions on your own.
It is important to understand that giving someone power of attorney does not take any power away from you. If the court were to name a conservator for you, then that person would have sole authority over your care decisions. But with a health care power of attorney, you still retain authority and can resume responsibility for making decisions as soon as you regain legal capacity.
A health care power of attorney is a helpful tool for all adults, but it is especially critical for those who are:
- Newly-minted adults heading off to college
- Preparing to undergo a major medical procedure where they might be temporarily incapacitated
- Moving into a long-term care facility
- Suffering from an illness that could become terminal
- Concerned about the potential for memory loss, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease
It is important to establish a medical power of attorney before the document is needed. After an individual has become incapacitated, then they lack the legal capacity to designate an agent and it becomes necessary to seek court authority.
Living Wills Provide Instructions for Difficult Situations
With a living will, you can describe the type of treatment you would want if you were in a terminal condition or permanent unconscious state and unable to communicate. The living will addresses more specific needs/wants in your health care. You can specify whether you would want life-prolonging measures such as nutrition and hydration. You can describe your preferences for pain relief and other treatment in end-of-life situations.
Having this document prepared saves your family tremendous anguish and uncertainty at a time when they would be overwhelmed with grief. It also keeps you in control of your health care decisions even though you are unable to communicate.
Choosing a Health Care Agent
When your estate planning attorney creates a power of attorney for health care, they will include your choice of agent designated to make decisions on your behalf. That person does not need to have specialized legal or medical training. You should choose someone you trust to make decisions in line with your preferences. In addition, you need to be prepared to name an alternate agent to serve in the role if your original agent is unable to fulfill the duties.
With decades of experience preparing critical legal documents, we understand the need for precision when defining your wishes. We first provide you homework to better understand your health care concerns and priorities. We facilitate a discussion (if needed) with your health care agent. We then document your preferences clearly in a way that leaves no room for argument or misinterpretation.
You should discuss matters with your preferred agent to ensure they understand and are willing to accept the responsibility. Then you should be sure they are aware of your preferences for treatment.
Protect Your Autonomy with Advance Directives in California
No one wants to contemplate a future where they are incapacitated and not able to make or communicate decisions. However, knowing that you are prepared in case of emergency can enable you to face the days ahead with confidence.
Blacksburg Law creates advance directives that are specifically tailored to your preferences while fulfilling all requirements of California law. If you are missing these critical documents or it has been some time since an attorney has reviewed your documents, we invite you to contact us to find out more about the ways we can protect you with advance directives and other estate planning tools.
Estate Planning Basics
A START-UP GUIDE TO ESTATE PLANNING
Download our Estate Planning Basics PDF Guide to get more information about what estate planning is, how it works, what you need to consider, and why Blacksburg Law is the right partner for you.
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