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On behalf of Richard A. Lewis posted in Estate Planning on Monday, September 12, 2016.

When many people think of estate planning, they think of the financial planning that is involved to assure that a person’s property and assets are correctly distributed after their death. But one of the biggest part of the estate planning process comes with managing the most valuable asset of all — a person’s life and health. In California, this is done by creating an advanced health care directive.

What Is An Advanced Health Care Directive?

Living longer doesn’t always mean living better. With more advanced age comes an advanced risk of being injured or succumbing to an illness that leaves a person unable to communicate their wishes of how they prefer to be treated and make important health care decisions. Many people take the initiative to confront potential scenarios by creating an advanced health care directive, which is similar to a living will. These are created to prevent burdening loved ones with the task of guessing the wishes of someone else, and to ensure that these are, in fact carried out if needed. In some states there are standard forms that are accepted to represent living wills or advanced health care directives. California has not designated a single form for this purpose. Because the range of scenarios for needing different types of health care assistance is so wide, it is preferable to work with an attorney to create a document that is specific to a person’s individual needs.

What’s Included?

In a health care directive, the patient has listed various “dos and don’ts” that loved ones and health care providers should follow and respect in case of a health care emergency. They can include things such as Do Not Resuscitate Orders (DNR), wishes regarding organ donation, limits on visitation, which life saving measures to use and for how long, and more.

Managing The Advanced Health Care Directive

In order to see that a directive actually is enforced properly, it is common for a person to name a durable medical power of attorney that will speak for them and stand up for them during a medical emergency or near the end of life when they cannot properly represent themselves. Often, this person is different from the person who is designated to make financial decisions. The POA will have access to the person’s medical records and will be able to take action, such as hiring or firing doctors or other medical staff who are working on the case. They can also work with a lawyer if any of those wishes are not being care out as directed.

Long before an advanced health care directive ever needs to be implemented, it is important that people make others aware that it exists and of the main components. A person’s immediate family, as well as their personal physician should be able to easily access this information. An estate planning lawyer can assist in helping a person decide what information to include in order to make the document as thorough and enforceable as possible.

Sources: http://estate.findlaw.com/living-will/the-definition-of-power-of-attorney-living-will-and-advance.html, https://oag.ca.gov/consumers/general/care#advance, http://www.americanbar.org/groups/real_property_trust_estate/resources/estate_planning/living_wills_health_care_proxies_advance_health_care_directives.html

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