It’s the scenario everyone hopes never happens: going through a medical emergency and being unable to speak for yourself. If this ever happens to you, do you know what your doctors and family will do? Will their decisions about your medical care be the same you would have chosen? How do you know for sure?
Under California law, the best way to guarantee that your wishes regarding end-of-life decisions and similar matters is to add two documents to your estate plan: an advance health care directive and a medical power of attorney.
Advance health care directive
In an advance health care directive, you lay out the extent of medical intervention you want in various scenarios where you are incapacitated. For example, you can say if you would want to be hooked up to an artificial respirator or other life-extending equipment if an accident or illness leaves you in a vegetative state. Otherwise, family members may disagree about what to do and may go against what you would have wanted. Your estate planning attorney will work with you to make sure your directive is comprehensive and clear.
Medical power of attorney
Your medical power of attorney document will designate someone to act as your proxy in medical situations when you are unable to communicate your wishes. Essentially, his or her job will be to ensure the terms of your advance health care directive are carried out. This should be someone you can trust. Many people choose their spouse or an adult child as their power of attorney for medical matters. But you can choose any adult.
More than a will
As you can see, your estate plan can include much more than your will. It can have an impact while you are still alive and act as an extension of your individual wishes.