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Advance Healthcare Directive, advanced directive, medical power of attorney, advanced health care directive, advance care, advance care plan, estate planning attorney near me, estate lawyers near me

What Is An Advance
Healthcare Directive

Why You Need An Advance Healthcare Directive

Talk about an advance healthcare directive and most people will tend to think that it’s just done when one reaches old age. When you’re healthy and at the prime of your life, thinking about medical care is the farthest thing from your mind.


But life is full of surprises and in a blink of an eye, a medical crisis can leave you too ill to make your healthcare decisions.  


The following article explains important points on Advance Healthcare Directives.  This will help you understand why you need to take this important step to make sure you receive the medical care you desire should you be left unable to speak for yourself, leaving family members and doctors to make the decisions for you.

What Is An Advance Healthcare Directive?

An "Advance health care directive" or "advance directive" is a document executed by a person that gives instructions on any health care decisions should he or she become incapacitated and unable to make those decisions.  


An advance health care directive allows you to do either or both of the following:


  1. Appoint someone to be your healthcare agent.  As your health care agent, a person is given legal authority to make health care decisions in your stead if you are no longer able to speak for yourself.

  2. Draft specific written instructions for your future health care in the event of your being unable to speak for yourself.  In California, the AHCD (Advance Health Care Directive) replaces the Natural Death Act and is used as the legal format for a living will (see below).


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Types of Advanced Healthcare Directive

Living Will. This is the earliest form of advance health care directive. This document provides instructions to your family members and doctors on your preferences for end-of-life care in the event of incapacity.


A living will does not appoint a specific person to make your health care decisions.


The living will specifies the type of medical treatment a person would want or not want when such a time comes. It can likewise specify under what circumstances or conditions an attempt to prolong life should be started or stopped.


Some of the decisions that may be covered by a living will:

  • Will CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) be administered or not?


  • Will you be kept on artificial life support such as the use of a ventilator or not?


  • Will you allow for dialysis?


  • Will you allow artificial nutrition through tube feeding and artificial hydration through intravenous fluids?


  • What types of medications to manage pain?


  • Do you prefer to live your last days at home or in the hospital?


While a living will may leave very specific instructions, there is a certain drawback. In this situation, the attending physician has the power and authority to carry out the signer’s directive.  


However, he may not be familiar with the signer’s wishes and values, and certain stipulations in the document may be interpreted differently by the physician from what was intended by the signer of the living will.


On the other hand, family members or others who know the signer’s wishes have no legal authority to interpret the meaning of the directives included in the living will.

Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare.  As differentiated from the above living will, the durable power of attorney for health care is a legal document that allows someone else, called your agent, to make the health care decisions for you.  


The decisions your agent makes for you should be consistent with your wishes. If you have not made your wishes known, your agent should act and choose decisions that are in your best interests.


Given this burden of responsibility, the person you choose as your agent should be someone you trust to carry out your wishes.  It is very important that you are able to discuss your wishes in detail with this person and describe to him or her what you consider an acceptable quality of life.


Most importantly, your chosen agent should be comfortable in the role that you have thrust upon him or her.  He or she must also be able to do this even under difficult circumstances.


If possible, you may appoint a backup agent in case your appointed person is unable or unwilling to act on your behalf.


There are restrictions on who you can appoint as your agent.  Unless he or she is a close relative, as well, your agent cannot be a doctor, nurse, or health care provider to you at the time you choose them.


Both Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare remain valid even if you become incapacitated.

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The California Advance Health Care Directive


In the state of California, there is a legal document called the California Advance Health Care Directive.  It is a combination of both the living will and the durable power of attorney for healthcare.


This legal document has five parts:


  1. Part 1: Power of Attorney for Health Care. As already explained above, this part lets you name a person to make decisions for your healthcare should you become incapacitated. The powers you can give to your agent may include

   a.The right to refuse or consent to treatment

   b.The right to withdraw or withhold treatment that sustains life

   c.The right to select or discharge health care providers or hospitals/clinics

   d.The right to access medical records

   2. Part 2: Individual Instructions.  This is your living will as explained above. You may put limitations on individual instructions to take effect only if certain specified conditions arise.


It is important to carefully consider what instructions you add to your AHCD so as not to restrict your agent’s power to act in your best interest.


   3. Part 3. Organ Donation. This part expresses your wishes for organ donation.

   4. Part 4. Primary Physician.  This allows you to name a physician to be your physician primarily in charge of your health care.

   5. Part 5. Signatures. To make the document legal and effective, the document should contain the signature of the person executing the AHCD and the witnessing provisions.


Any California resident who is mentally competent and is at least 18 years of age may execute a valid AHCD.  In addition, two qualified adult witnesses or a notary public must sign the document to acknowledge that you are of sane mind and are acting under your own will.


The AHCD is revocable should you have a change of mind. You may revoke any portion or the entire advance directive at any time and in any way.


How is this done?  You may inform your agent or physician of your revocation or by signing a revocation. Or you may simply tear up the advance directive.


Revoking your agent’s appointment, however, is not as simple. To do this, you must inform your supervising physician or health care provider of your intent or revoke your agent’s appointment in a signed document.

Advance Healthcare Directive - Let Me Help

Because nothing in life is ever certain, it pays to be prepared and your loved ones will appreciate it as well.  Take control of how you want your health care to be managed should you become unable to make decisions for yourself.  


I am Andrea Aston a practicing attorney specializing in trust and estate planning, including advance healthcare directives, living trusts, asset protection, trust administration, and probate.

If you want to set up an Advanced Health Care Directive and are unsure of how to proceed, I am happy to answer your queries.


Reach out to me at 760-758-1565 or email to set up a free consultation for your Advance Health Care Directive planning needs today.


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