If you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions about your own medical care, someone will need to make these decisions on your behalf. Without enforceable legal documents that make your wishes clear, these important decisions may be left to doctors, judges or family members who may struggle to know the right thing to do. An advance healthcare directive can eliminate the guesswork for your caretakers and can help you maintain some control over your own health, even if you no longer have the physical or mental capability to make your own decisions.
An advance healthcare directive consists of two documents:
- A power of attorney for healthcare, which allows you to name a trusted person (or “agent”) to oversee and direct your medical care; and
- A living will, which specifies the type of care you would like to receive, including whether you would like life-saving measures to be taken in an emergency.
To be valid and enforceable under California law, an advance healthcare directive must be signed in front of two witnesses or a notary public. At least one of your witnesses should not be a relative or a beneficiary of your estate, and neither of your witnesses may be your healthcare agent, your healthcare provider or an employee or operator of a healthcare facility responsible for your care.