When it comes to estate planning, you may hear several terms that sound similar but have different meanings. For instance, a “will” and a “living will” may sound like they are the same type of estate planning instrument. In truth, these devices perform very different functions. Further, some people may be familiar with a California will but not know the purpose of a living will. If you have heard of a living will but are unsure of whether or not you need one, you will want to know: What does a California living will actually do?
What is the Difference Between a Will and a California Living Will?
A will is a legal device that a person can use to leave their property and assets to their heirs. The will’s creator (testator) can also use this document to identify their preferred personal representative. Their personal representative will be responsible for overseeing the administration of their estate. Additionally, a will can be used to nominate guardians for minor children. By contrast, a California living will is not used to leave property to heirs or to nominate guardians. It is also the former term for what is now referred to as the Advance Health Care Directive.
What is an Advance Health Care Directive?
An Advance Health Care Directive is a legal device that someone can use to provide specific medical instructions for their health care providers to follow during their incapacity. The directive’s creator can also use the document to name another person to serve as their medical decision-maker. The medical decision-maker will be responsible for ensuring that the incapacitated person’s treatment instructions are followed. This individual will also make any necessary healthcare-related decisions on their behalf. If you do not have an Advance Health Care Directive, your loved ones may have to go to court to have someone designated to make critical choices regarding your health care.
Having an Advance Health Care Directive is essential to helping ensure that you are treated according to your instructions and that someone you trust will be there to look out for your well-being. There are also other essential estate planning devices that you should have in place to protect your interests.
Power of Attorney for Financial Matters
Just as an Advance Health Care Directive can help safeguard your physical health, a power of attorney for financial matters can help protect your economic interests during incapacity. This legal device permits its creator to designate another person to make financial decisions on their behalf. The power of attorney instrument can be broad, giving the decision-maker authority over all of the creator’s finances or limited to specific responsibilities. These may include tasks such as paying the creator’s bills, making investments with their funds and accepting payments owed to them. The device can also be drafted so that it will become active at the point the creator becomes incapacitated. A power of attorney for financial matters can also be limited to a specific period of time. Without a power of attorney for financial matters, your loved ones may have to ask a court to appoint a conservator of the estate to manage your financial interests.
Your Will and Trust Documents
As mentioned above, your will is the legal instrument you will use to leave your assets to your heirs and to nominate a personal representative. You can also use this device to name potential guardians for your children. Another key estate-planning device is a living trust. You can use a living trust to plan for your estate and provide for yourself and your beneficiaries. Property or assets placed in a valid living trust can pass according to the trust’s terms and will not be subject to probate. There are also specialized devices such as Medi-Cal asset protect trusts. There can be numerous benefits to having both a will and a trust, and these instruments are often devised to complement one another.
The best way to plan for your estate and make certain you have an Advance Health Care Directive and other crucial devices is by working with an experienced California estate planning attorney.
At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we are experienced California estate planning attorneys who can help you evaluate your situation and determine the best solutions for you and your estate. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.