One of the most important documents in your California estate plan is your advance health care directive. Sometimes, people refer to these documents as a living will because in them you provide your wishes for what kind of life-prolonging measures you want doctors to take if you can’t survive without them.
California’s advance health care directive, however, allows you to include more detail than that. You can list your criteria for discontinuation of life support. For example, would you want to be kept alive if you were expected to remain in a vegetative state? You can also detail your wishes regarding pain medications, including those that could possibly cause your death to happen sooner but keep you from suffering.
These aren’t pleasant things to contemplate, of course. However, by considering them when you’re healthy, you take the burden off others who might otherwise have to make those decisions later.
The document also allows you to give permission for the use of your organs and whatever parts of your body can be of use for transplant, research, therapy and education after you’re gone. In some cases, doctors may need to keep a person technically alive while they find suitable candidates for transplantation.
You should also have a health care POA
When you put your advance health care directive in place, it’s wise to include a power of attorney (POA) document in which you name your chosen health care agent. This person will have permission to talk with your medical team and give that team the legal authority they need to discuss it with them.
Your agent’s job is also to ensure that the wishes designated in your advance directive are followed. That’s why it’s important to make sure that your designated agent is comfortable with those wishes since they don’t have the authority to override them.
Make sure your directive and POA are accessible
Many health care providers now let people upload these documents to their systems. However, if you become seriously ill or injured away from home, you want to be sure that someone else – at least your health care agent – can access them. This person should probably be your primary emergency contact.
It may seem like a lot to think about. However, with experienced legal guidance, you can put documents in place that will allow you to have input into your care and potential end-of-life treatment if you can’t speak for yourself.