If you want to do some estate planning, where should you begin? For many, the first stop is probably healthcare. However, healthcare and legal terms can get confusing fast for laypeople. Two terms come up a lot during estate planning for medical care—”living will” and “advanced healthcare directive.” Is a Californian Advance Health Care Directive part of a living will? In this article, we’ll cover definitions for both terms and explain how you can go about arranging for healthcare decisions in your estate plan.
Living Will vs. Advance Healthcare Directive
Living wills and advance directive forms have a lot in common; it’s understandable why someone would get them confused. Let’s take a look at both living wills and health care directives so we can explore the difference between the two.
What’s a Living Will?
Although the phrase “living will” ends with the familiar term “will,” it has nothing to do with the conventional will we know. A living will is a legal document used to state your end-of-life preferences. A living will become effective when you are unconscious or in a coma—in other words, if you can no longer voice your own treatment preferences.
A living will comprise various medical decisions you want and do not want to take. You can delineate personal wishes and detailed instructions for life-prolonging treatment, tube feedings, anatomical donations, and more to your health care team via a living will.
What’s an Advance Healthcare Directive?
An advance healthcare directive is a document that states all your healthcare preferences in case of a medical emergency in the future. In California, you need an agent to carry out your advance care planning documents. Your agent makes sure the healthcare decisions outlined in your advance care planning documents are executed by healthcare professionals when the time comes.
What’s the Difference Between a Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney?
A medical power of attorney is a document that allows you to appoint a healthcare agent to make your healthcare decisions when you can’t. On the other hand, a living will outline your choices for medical treatments during a life-threatening illness. These two healthcare documents are combined to form an advanced healthcare directive in California.
However, the living will is more potent than the medical POA. This is because it contains your actual health care directives. A health care agent’s wishes can’t overrule what the principal, you, have already stated in your living will. In other words, the living will have preeminence over the medical power of attorney.
Is a Californian Advance Health Care Directive Part of a Living Will?
No. Rather, it is the other way around! An advanced healthcare directive in California combines a living will and the medical power of attorney. Hence, a living will is one of the health care forms in an advanced healthcare directive.
Although people use these terms interchangeably, a living will is a part of an advanced healthcare directive. And in California, the legal process of putting your advance care planning decisions in order is done via an advanced healthcare directive.
Think about it like this: a living will is like the written form of an advanced healthcare directive. However, if you recover from incapacitation, the living will become void and you can once again voice your own decisions to any health care institution.
Should Everyone Create a Living Will/AHCD?
It is best if everyone above 18 years old has a living will. Even though it is pretty unpleasant to think about the possibility of becoming incapacitated, you can’t predict the future. There might be a time when you become incapacitated, and a living will help you make important choices while taking the burden off the family to make those choices. It also helps your health care institution provide the best care to patients and set appropriate treatment goals for you.
While a living will is a good idea for anyone, even a healthy person, here are some circumstances that might warrant the need for a living will:
- You have an ongoing health condition
- You have a fatal diagnosis with no more treatment options
- You are about to relocate to a care facility
- You have estranged family or other family control issues that may result in decisions you don’t agree with. For example, maybe you feel strongly about participating in an organ donation program, and you know your family disagrees with this.
As you can see, a living will is often drafted in response to a recent health discovery or long-term plan.
What Decisions Do You Make in a Living Will?
When drafting a living will, you have to consider some choices for healthcare. Although making these decisions can be strenuous, doing it when you are capable is better in the long run and can take some of the stress of decision-making off your care proxies, like your family.
You can decide if you want a:
- Blood transfusion
- Pain meditation
- Feeding tubes
You can also make post-mortem decisions, such as a decision about organ donation. While a donation card can help with this as well, including a donation of organs section in your living will make your choice crystal clear.
How to Create a Living Will in California
If you want to move forward with a living will as a part of your advance care directive, you’ll need to follow some specific steps. Keep in mind that you must be 18 years old to get a living will form. As long as you’re a legal adult, this is how you create a living will in California:
1. Get the Right Form
The advance healthcare directive in California consists of a living will and a medical power of attorney. To start, ensure that you fill out the correct document. Check with a legal document preparation platform like A People’s Choice to ensure you have the correct forms to record your future health care decisions.
2. Fill out the Form
During this step, you’ll need to carefully consider your medical choices and fill them out in your living will. You can consult your doctor or reputable medical resources if needed to discuss care settings, treatment goals, emergency treatments, healthcare ethics, and more as you make these important decisions.
3. Complete and Sign the Form
Once you have filled your form appropriately, the next step is its signing. In California, without an effective signature, your advanced healthcare directive is void.
There are two ways to sign your document. Either you sign the paper in the presence of a notary public, or you include the signature of a witness from two people who watched you sign. Nonetheless, it is advised that you use both of these two methods for the most secure living will.
4. Distribute the Forms
After your form has been filled correctly and signed, it’s time to share it with your healthcare provider, family members, and other concerned parties. This way, they can access your living will and consult it for decisions about emergency treatment and more when the need arises.
Note: You can revoke or make changes to your advanced healthcare directive at any time if you decide you’d like alternate treatments or other changes. You can call your form back and use the space provided to make changes. However, it is usually better to revoke the old ones and fill out a new form if you’re making significant changes.
Do You Need a Lawyer for a Living Will?
The legal process of crafting a living will is relatively simple, but it’s part of the more complex process of creating an advance care directive. You might need assistance with preparing not only your living will, but a medical power of attorney and other related estate planning documents.
An estate planning attorney can be a valuable resource as you prepare a living will and other documents in the estate planning process. They can also save you a great deal of time as you navigate complex family medical decisions. Of course, an estate planning attorney is no small expense, costing hundreds of dollars an hour. An alternate estate planning tool like A People’s Choice can provide some guidance for a much smaller price.
Get Help with Your Living Will from A People’s Choice
A living will is an integral aspect of estate planning. California’s legal framework often couples it with the medical power of attorney and other crucial estate planning documents. For elderly individuals, those with medical issues, or simply people who want to be prepared, these documents with advanced instructions can make a big difference.
A living will and other advanced health care planning documents are a way of unburdening your loved ones from making difficult healthcare decisions. A People’s Choice can help you fill out your advance care planning documents correctly and completely. We’re a certified Californian legal document preparation service provider, and while we can’t offer you legal advice, we can help you handle documents for any civil California-related legal issues, such as drafting a living will.
Click this link to learn more about health care directives and how to get started with us today.