It may be difficult to think about a time when you can not make responsible health care decisions, but you should realize that this point in time may not be so far off in the future. You may believe you covered all your bases by creating a will and planning for your death, but it is also critical to consider what happens if you are incapacitated during your lifetime. At the Law Office of Kristina M. Reed, our team has extensive experience advising clients on all aspects of estate planning, including advance directives that address medical care and treatment.Understanding Advance Directives
In California, advance directives are estate planning tools intended to fill the gap if you are unable to take control over health care issues and medical treatment. Such a situation may arise if:
- You become temporarily incapacitated because of an accident or illness;
- You are permanently incapacitated from a medical condition or advanced age; or,
- Other circumstances render you unable to act.
There are two key documents that fall under the umbrella of an advance directive, which address different health care issues that arise when you are not capable of making decisions:
California Advance Directive: Sometimes called a health care power of attorney, this document allows you to appoint an agent that will stand in your shoes to make decisions regarding medical treatment and well-being. You can also include specific instructions that apply to designated medical scenarios.
Living Will: This document complements the California Advance Directive by stating your wishes with regards to certain types of medical treatment. For instance, you may include instructions about artificial life support or resuscitation orders.Advance Directives in Practice
Even when you understand the function of the California Advance Directive, you can better comprehend the value when you learn about what happens when you do NOT have one. If you are incapacitated due to a medical condition, decisions must still be made regarding your care. Without some form of legal authority, your spouse, children, siblings, parents, and others can not act. The only option for getting this legal authority is being appointed as your guardian through the California probate process, which involves:
- Filing a guardianship petition, along with fees;
- Engaging in a guardianship contest with any other individuals who might file a guardianship petition;
- Convincing the judge that the petitioner is fit, able, and willing to act as guardian; and,
- Receiving an order appointing the petitioner as guardian.
As you might expect, the process can take weeks. In a hotly disputed contest over who should act as your guardian for health care purposes, the proceedings may even take months. Meanwhile, your medical treatment and well-being hangs in the balance.
A California Advance Directive avoids probate entirely. When your healthcare provider needs a person to make a decision regarding your care, your agent can present the document and take action according to the intentions you have indicated.Trust a Sacramento, CA Advance Directives Lawyer Regarding Your Options
For more information on how advance directives work and the requirements for creating them, please contact the Law Office of Kristina M. Reed in Sacramento, CA. You can call 916-492-6033 to schedule a consultation to learn more about these and other estate planning strategies.