You sometimes hear a case on the news where a family has a member who is in a coma or is otherwise medically unresponsive or incapacitated, and there is a great debate about what to do with the patient. It is often a guessing game as to the patient’s wishes in a situation like this, and that can lead to family disagreements and even court cases. It doesn’t always have to be like this. With some planning, creating a California Advance Healthcare Directive lets the doctors and other caregivers, including your family, know what you would like to happen to you if you are that sick. Settling these questions can give you and your loved ones peace of mind.

What is a California Advance Healthcare Directive?

An California advance healthcare directive is a legal document that informs your family of your end-of-life wishes as to medical care, including which procedures, medical testing or resuscitation you would or would not want to be performed on you to sustain your life. It can also tell them of what you wish to be done with your organs, and whether you want to receive care in a hospice or at home if you are terminally ill. Though this document is used for end-of-life decisions, you can also have it apply to all situations where you are not capable of making your own decision. The document remains valid until you cancel or revoke it, or include a date for the power granted to end when drafting the document.

Creating an Advance Healthcare Directive

Before you create a California advance health care directive, you should talk to your doctor, and to the person you wish to make the decisions for you when you are incapacitated. Under the document, the person you choose will be known as your agent, and you will be known as the principal.

Talking to your doctor can help you understand the kind of medical procedures that would be potentially available, and the consequences of each. The doctor can also give you an idea of how she has experienced agents act on behalf of the principal.This may help you in picking the right person as an agent. Keep in mind that the agent will also have access to your medical information to prepare to make the decisions for you if they have to. You may also name an alternate agent for when your first agent is not able to perform his duties.

The California Probate Code Section 4701 provides a form that can be used for the purposes of creating a California Advance Healthcare Directive. While you may use this form, it is not required, and you may choose to draft your own document. If you choose to draft your own document, you can contact A People’s Choice, for low-cost non-attorney or self-help assistance to prepare the document.

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Once you have created your California advance healthcare directive, you may want to talk to the rest of your family about your wishes, and what arrangements you have made. This will keep them from fighting later, and questioning the authenticity of your advance healthcare directive. You should also consider informing your doctor, and any institution providing medical care, including people who are to be contacted when an emergency arises. Creating a California advance healthcare directive is an important aspect of planning for the unforeseen. This document, combined with informing the family or friends in advance, will prepare your loved ones to follow your wishes during an emotional time.