Planning for Incapacity: What is an Advanced Directive?

(a.k.a. medical directive, health care power of attorney or living will)

An advanced health care directive allows an individual to:

  • nominate an agent to make medical decisions on his or her behalf,
  • make decisions about end of life care,
  • consent to organ donation, and
  • leave burial or cremation instructions.

Most advanced health care directives do not give the agent authority to act on behalf of the individual until a physician declares, under penalty of perjury, that the individual is unable to care for or make decisions for himself. Without a health care directive, family members must make health care decisions for an incapacitated individual without knowing his or her wishes. In the event family disagrees on medical decisions, they must petition the probate court for a conservator to be appointed. This can be time-consuming, costly and detrimental to family relations.

In planning your estate be sure to discuss advanced directives with your attorney. After your directive is signed and notarized, consider discussing your wishes with your nominated agents as well as your physician. Many physicians will make your directive a part of your medical record so other doctors and emergency room personnel may access it.

Planning for your own incapacitation can be difficult, but I always remind my clients of the burden they are relieving from their families by being proactive in planning their estate and planning for incapacity.

Leave your legacy, your way.

Happy planning!

B.B.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Brittany Britton is licensed to practice law in the state of California only.

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