Advance Healthcare Directives & Estate Planning
In the event you were to become incapacitated—or unable to make necessary medical decisions on your own behalf—having a California Advance Health Care directive could be crucial. Of course, no one ever expects to become incapacitated, but unfortunately, it can happen in an instant to any person at any time. An Advance Healthcare directive is a legal document which clearly outlines your preferences for tough medical decision. The Advance Healthcare Directive allows you to choose a person you trust—known as your agent—to make medical decisions upon your incapacitation.
Many people mistakenly believe healthcare directives are only for the elderly. In fact, a person of any age can benefit from having a healthcare directive in place. Think about this: Even those who are young and healthy can suffer an unfortunate accident or have a medical issue which leaves them unable to communicate their wishes to doctors and loved ones. If that were to happen to you, who would you trust to make the hard decisions on your behalf?
Is Preparing an Advance Healthcare Directive Difficult?
The preparation of a AHCD is not particularly difficult, however, if you want to ensure the documents are legal and binding, you will definitely want to have an experienced estate planning attorney prepare the directive on your behalf. The following are things to think about before you meet with your estate planning attorney to have an advance healthcare directive prepared:
- Think long and hard about who you will appoint as your healthcare agent—also known as an attorney-in-fact. This is a person who will have the legal authority to make healthcare decisions for you should you be unable to make those decisions for yourself. Before you choose a family member, ask yourself if that person will potentially be placed in a difficult position when they are following your wishes—wishes that other family members may not agree with. You must not only choose someone you trust; you must choose a person who is willing and able to make potentially difficult decisions. It is never a good idea to choose a person as your healthcare agent without having an honest discussion with that person. You will need to discuss your desires, fears, values, and preferences about the medical decisions you would want to be made on your behalf in a variety of situations. From a practical standpoint, you should also choose someone who lives in your area in the event they are called upon to direct your medical treatments for a significant length of time. It is always a good idea to choose an alternate healthcare agent in the event your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve. Once you have chosen a healthcare agent, be sure to let your family members and your doctors who you have chosen.
- Determine what decisions you would make for yourself in a variety of situations. As an example, suppose you were to have an accident which left you severely brain-damaged, with no hope of recovery. Would you choose to withhold lifesaving measures?
- Determine who you will designate as your primary physician. The advance healthcare directive allows you to designate a specific medical doctor as your primary physician.
Additional Information About Your Healthcare Agent
Remember—you can give your healthcare agent as broad or as limited powers as you choose, including:
- The right to select a healthcare provider;
- The right to discharge your chosen healthcare provider under certain circumstances;
- The right to choose an institution of care on your behalf;
- The right to refuse treatment;
- The right to consent to treatment;
- The right to access your medical records;
- The right to withdraw from life-sustaining treatments;
- The right to withhold life-sustaining treatments;
- The right to permit organ donation following your death;
- The right to restrict organ donation following your death;
- The right to authorize an autopsy following your death, or
- The right to direct the disposition of your remains following your death.
Your healthcare agent is never liable for your medical expenses (unless that person is already legally responsible for your debts).
Getting the Help You Need for an Advance Healthcare Directive
Taking a proactive stance toward the estate planning process can make a huge difference, ensuring the outcome is predictable, and minimizing any potentially unpleasant surprises for your loved ones. California estate planning attorney Mark Gullotta has been helping people plan for the future for more than fifteen years. Mark believes an estate plan is not a “static” document; as your life changes, your estate plan should be flexible enough to change with it.
While this is the goal, you will also need to revisit your estate plan—including your advance healthcare directive—from time to time to ensure there have been no changes in your wishes. Attorney Mark Gullotta can assist you with every aspect of your estate plan—from the planning stages to the execution of the legal documents and beyond. If your goal is to protect your loved ones and you want a comfortable planning experience with an attorney who will keep you informed every step of the way, contact Mark Gullotta today.