While it can be difficult to think about, at some point you may experience a debilitating injury or illness that prevents you from communicating your wishes for medical care. If you are like many Americans, you may not have a plan in place for end-of-life treatment.
In California, there are two types of estate planning documents available to ensure your family and your medical providers understand and follow your preferences for medical treatment: advance directives and medical power of attorney.
What is an advance directive?
An advance health care directive also called a “living will,” allows you to document your specific wishes about what types of potentially invasive treatments you do or do not want to receive if you cannot speak for yourself and your condition is terminal.
For instance, you may prefer that medical providers do everything reasonably possible to extend your life, even if you are not conscious. On the other hand, you may object to potentially invasive end-of-life procedures, such as tube feeding or mechanical respiration.
What is a medical power of attorney?
While an advance directive allows you to give specific directions for specific circumstances, medical decisions are often complicated. In California, you may appoint a trusted individual to act on your behalf by setting up a medical power of attorney in addition to or instead of a living will.
It can feel impossible to consider worst-case medical scenarios. However, having those difficult conversations early and including advance care planning in your estate plan may save you and your family from later confusion, disagreement and heartache down the road.