What is an Advance Health Care Directive? (A Brief Overview)

When most people think of estate planning, they think of money, investments, real estate, and other items of value. One thought that is overlooked are the important medical decisions that may need to be made if you became incapacitated. For this reason, just about every estate plan also includes a document called the Advance Health Care Directive.

Features Of An Advance Health Care Directive

The Advance Health Care Directive allows you to tell your medical providers your wishes with respect to life-sustaining treatment if you have a terminal illness, if you're in a coma, or the risks of treatment would exceed the expected upsides of that treatment. You may also specify the parameters of any relief from pain that you want or organ donation. Perhaps one of the most important things the Advance Health Care Directive does is allows you to name one or more individuals (also known as an "health care agent") to make decisions for your regarding your health care.

Powers of A Health Care Agent

In general, the health care agent has the following powers:

  1. He or she has the right to receive your medical information
  2. He or she has priority over others in making health care decisions for you
  3. He or she has the power to deal with your remains after you pass away (except to the extent that you specify in the Advance Health Care Directive)

California has conveniently created a statutory form of Advance Health Care Directive. You can find it for free in the California Probate Code Section 4701, so there's no reason not to have one!