What You Need to Know About the California Advance Health Care Directive

What is an advance health care directive?

An advance health care directive is a legal document that outlines your health care preferences in the event that you become incapacitated or unable to make medical decisions on your own behalf.

In this document, you can also appointment someone you trust (your “agent”) to make your medical decisions and provide care if you become incapacitated.

The advance health care directive is one of the crucial parts of any estate plan.

There is a common misconception that health care directives are only for older people, but in fact, a person of any age can benefit from having an advance health care directive in place.

Even if you’re young and healthy, there’s always a possibility you could suffer an accident or medical issue and be unable to communicate your health care wishes to your doctors and loved ones. This document enables you to clearly state those wishes and protect yourself in a worst-case scenario.

Is a living will the same thing as a health care directive?

It is important to clarify that advance health care directives are not the same thing a living wills or medical POAs. The living will and medical power of attorney are merely one potential part of an advance health care directive.

It allows you to declare certain health care wishes, but does not actually grant power of attorney to someone to serve as a decision maker in your place. An advance health care directive allows you to do either or both of these things.

What else can be included in an advance health care directive?

In most cases, advance health care directives comprise several different types of orders or legal documents that indicate your wishes regarding medical treatment during your incapacitation.

Beyond a living will and power of attorney, other documents and orders can include:

  • Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order: A DNR order is an order you provide to doctors if you do not wish to receive lifesaving measures such as CPR. It is a supplementary order you add to your directives, and contains stipulations for when you do and do not wish to be revived.

    Most circumstances in which a DNR applies involve a patient who was already critically ill and does not wish to receive further treatment if their condition worsens to the point where it renders them unconscious.

  • POLST forms: A Physicians Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form is a document used to provide physicians with more detailed instructions and preferences regarding your health care, including wishes regarding medication, intubation, ratification nutrition and other similar life-sustaining treatment methods.

Can I modify my advance health care directive?

You can make changes to your advance health care directive by developing written statements that express the changes you wish to employ are acceptable and reflect your latest wishes.

However, in many cases it makes more sense to simply revoke the previous advance health care directive and re-start from scratch to prevent any potential miscommunications or confusion due to too many modifications (or missing modifications or addendums).

To cancel and revoke your directive, you will need to create a written statement doing so that you then sign and date in the presence of witnesses.

Learn more about advance health care directives with an estate planning attorney

The advance health care directive is only one small part of the estate planning process.

For more information about advance health care directives in California and other estate planning, we encourage you to contact an experienced Los Angeles estate planning attorney.

Call (626) 307-2800 today to request a free consultation.