A crucial part of a California estate plan is the advance health care directive. Even young adults who aren’t yet ready to consider who will inherit their property when they die and develop a full estate plan are wise to have an advance health care directive in place.
This directive lets health care providers know your wishes in a variety of scenarios if you’re unable to speak for yourself – for example, if you’re in a coma. This can happen to anyone, regardless of their age and health.
This can be an emotionally difficult document to draw up – perhaps even more so than a will. To make it as complete and useful as possible, you need to consider under what conditions you want life-continuing measures to continue — or end.
When do you want to be kept alive – or allowed to die?
To do that, you need to give some thought to what makes life worth living for you. For example, would you want to be kept alive if you would never regain your cognitive functions? What if your cognitive functions were intact, but you were unable to move or communicate?
You can include other wishes as well for your care as well as your remains. For example, you can designate what, if any, parts of your body you’re willing to donate for transplant or research. The California advance health care directive form is very detailed, so you’ll have a lot to consider.
The role of the agent you choose
You should also designate an agent and give them power of attorney over health care. This allows them to talk with your medical team and receive information on your condition. Their role is also to be your advocate to ensure that the wishes you’ve detailed are carried out.
Typically, people name a family member or good friend. Just make sure that they’re comfortable carrying out your wishes. If they have religious or other objections, it’s best to choose someone else.
Your advance health care directive can help avoid serious family conflict by well-meaning loved ones who all think they know what you would want if you could speak for yourself and help alleviate any guilt they might feel about their decisions. With experienced legal guidance, you can help ensure that you’re able to have a say in your care after a catastrophic injury or health issue even if you can’t speak for yourself.