An advance health care directive is one of the most important documents that any Californian of any age can have in their estate plan. However, it’s also one of the most emotionally challenging for many people to draw up. That’s because it addresses your wishes for a time when you won’t be make decisions about your own health care. That could be as you reach the end of your life after a long illness or after a catastrophic accident or medical event leaves you in a coma.
Drawing up an advance directive, however, can spur you to think about what makes life worth living. Do you want artificial measures used to keep you alive if there’s no chance that you’ll be able to regain cognitive functions, for example?
An advance directive (sometimes called a living will) serves other purposes as well. You can designate whether you want your body (or parts of it, like organs and tissues) donated and for what purposes (transplant, research, education or therapy, for example). You can also designate whether you want burial or cremation when you pass away.
When you draw up your advance directive, you need to designate an agent who will have medical power of attorney to deal with your health care providers once it’s determined that you’re not able to make decisions. Through your advance directive, you can designate what decisions you leave up to your health care agent and which ones they need to follow the wishes you’ve laid out.
This is a serious responsibility to give someone, so it’s essential to make sure that the person you choose (and an alternate if you wish) is able and willing to take on the task. People often name a family member or trusted friend. You can’t name a medical professional or employee of a medical facility unless that person is a relative.
A well-drafted advance health care directive can be a final gift to your family, as it can spare them torturous decisions, serious in-fighting and even court battles. An experienced family law attorney can help you create an advance directive that will give you peace of mind.