Advance Directives

Every adult needs an advance directive (AD) for health care regardless of age and health status. We never know when some kind of an event might leave us unable to speak for ourselves.

A previously written record of a person’s health care wishes is invaluable if that person is not able to make or communicate decisions about his or her desired medical care.

End of Life Choices California - Advance Directives

What is an Advance Directive?

Advance Directive is a generic term used for documents that traditionally include 2 parts:

  1. a living will (learn more) and
  2. the appointment of a health care agent via a durable power of attorney (learn more).  

How Advance Directives Work

These documents allow you to provide instructions relating to your future health care, such as when you wish to receive medical treatment or when you wish to stop or refuse life-sustaining medical treatments and to designate an individual(s) to speak on your behalf if you cannot speak for yourself.

It is well known that Advance Directives ease the burden for  family members. They help relieve the stress and doubt associated with having to make important health care decisions on behalf of someone they care about, but without clear instructions.

By making wishes known in advance, you can help guide your families and friends, who may otherwise struggle to decide the best course.  It is worth noting that many people choose a health care proxy who might be less emotionally involved as it might be easier to uphold their wishes rather than a beloved family member or spouse/partner. This might be a trusted attorney, friend or other associates.

California’s Advance Directive

Advance Directives are legally valid in California and one example of a form can be found here:  State of California Advance Directive.  This AD does not require an attorney nor a notary if there are 2 valid witnesses, preferably unrelated to the individual.

An advance directive can be changed or cancelled at any time.  This can be accomplished by notifying the health care agent, in writing, of the decision to do so. It is best to destroy all copies of the old AD and create a new one. Make sure to provide copies of the new document to the appropriate individuals.  It is strongly recommended that ADs be reviewed every year, re-signed and re-dated, indicating that the document continues to reflect current wishes.

Living Wills

This part of the Advance Directive allows you to specify which kinds of treatment and care you desire if you are unable to speak for yourself.

A living will allows you to express your wishes about any aspect of your health care, including decisions regarding life-sustaining treatments.  Remember, it can include treatments and procedures you do or do not want. Statements regarding organ and tissue donation may also be included. The instructions provided in this portion of the form serve as evidence of the patient’s wishes.

Helpful Links:

Courtesy Compassion & Choices

Durable Power of Attorney

The second part of the Advance Directive, is often referred to as the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.

It provides the designation of someone who will be able to make decisions regarding health care if you are unable to speak for yourself due to illness or incapacitation. This designated  person may also be called a health care agent, proxy, surrogate or representative. This person should be informed and agree that you are naming him or her in the AD. It must be a person you know will truly go to bat for you and express exactly what your wishes are when you are not able.

    Contact a Volunteer

    If you have questions, would like to discuss advance care planning further, or need help preparing your advance directives, please contact us.  A volunteer will follow up with you to find out how we can assist.

    Death is a challenge. It tells us not to waste time… It tells us to tell each other right now that we love each other. 

    Leo Buscaglia

    Advance Direcives
    Advance Directives are legally valid in California and one example of a form can be found here:  State of California Advance Directive.  This AD does not require an attorney nor a notary if there are 2 valid witnesses, preferably unrelated to the individual.

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