You’ve probably heard of an advance health care directive (also sometimes called a living will), but do you know what it does and why you should absolutely have one?

An advance health care directive is a signed document allowing another individual to make health care decisions for you (an “agent”). It can also provide health care instructions concerning your wishes for your health care and end-of-life decisions. It can be a very simple document or can be very detailed, stating things like whether or not you want to live in an assisted living facility, your religious preferences, and whether or not you would like pain management, etc. An advance health care directive should also name successor or alternate agent(s) to act for you in case the first person you selected as your agent cannot or wishes not to act in that role. An attorney drafted advance health care directive can be customized to meet your particular needs and wishes regarding your health care and end-of-life decisions.

Without an advance health care directive, the person or persons you would like to make decisions for you and manage your health care may not be legally authorized to do so. We’ve all heard the stories either from the news or from personal experience where, after a tragic accident involving a relative, one family member wants to keep the relative on life-support while another family member does not.  Ultimately, the real tragedy is that the hospital caring for the relative will not make a decision (and rightfully so) which forces the family members into a heated court battle for determination on what is to be done.  Such court battles are lengthy and difficult and always end up tearing apart the family. However, a properly drafted and implemented advance health care directive can prevent all of this mess and ensure that your personal wishes are followed should a tragedy befall you.

Once an advance health care directive is created, it is recommended that you provide a copy of it to your family members, the individual(s) named as your agent/alternate agent(s), your local hospital, and to your doctor. You should also bring a copy with you when traveling. This ensures that your wishes are known and followed in case of an emergency.

If you already have an advance health care directive, you should review it every couple of years to ensure that it names the person(s) you would like to act for you as your agent and that it accurately reflects your wishes for your own health care.  Anyone dealing with the above issues should contact the Chilina Law Firm or another law firm focusing on estate planning for legal advice.

Authored by Karen Chilina and Co-Authored by Greg Chilina

Chilina Law Firm, a Professional Corporation, is a full-service estate planning, probate, trust administration, business law, and real property law firm that provides a wide-range of advising, transactional, and litigation services to its clients from its office located in Atascadero, California. The firm’s attorneys represent individuals and business entities in an assortment of transactional and litigation matters involving estate planning (including trusts, wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives), probate, trust administration, as well as general business law, contracts, corporate governance, land use, and real property. Chilina Law can be contacted by telephone at (805) 538-5038 or by email atinfo@chilinalaw.comor visit the Chilina Law Firm at Chilina Law Firm is based in Atascadero, California and serves North San Luis Obispo County communities, including Santa Margarita, Atascadero, Templeton, Paso Robles, and San Miguel.

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