Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo Logo

What Is A Living Will, And Do I Need One?

01/05/2023 | Wills
What Is A Living Will, And Do I Need One

You may have heard someone mention a living will before in passing and not given it much thought. For some people, the term does not come up until they are facing a surgical procedure, and the hospital staff starts asking questions. So, you may be wondering: What is a living will, and do I need one?

Is a Living Will the Same as a Will?

You may already have a will that sets out how you want your property to be distributed and whom you would prefer to raise your minor children if you were to pass away. Although having a will is an excellent way to prepare for the future, this document is separate and distinct from a living will. A living will is a document that tells your medical providers your care and treatment preferences if you were to become incapacitated.

Is a Living Will an Advance Directive?

A living will can be considered a type of advance directive. An advance directive is a document that instructs medical treatment providers and others about what a patient wants to happen if they are unable to make decisions. However, the definition of advance directive varies according to state law.

Is a Living Will a Medical Power of Attorney?

One common misconception is that a living will is that same thing as a medical power of attorney. However, a medical power of attorney is a document that allows a person to name a health care agent to step in on his or her behalf to make decisions in the event of incapacity. If you have a living will, someone with a medical power of attorney could ensure your treatment decisions were honored and make decisions on your behalf if needed.

California Living Will

A California living will created under the Natural Death Act Declaration, was a limited type of advance directive that provided specific instructions to medical professionals regarding your care if you were to become incapacitated. This document was essential to letting your doctors and other medical caregivers know information such as the types of treatment you preferred and which life-saving measures they would be permitted to take. The document did not designate anyone to make medical decisions on your behalf.  However, today, the California Advance Health Care Directive has replaced the Natural Death Act Declaration and is the legally accepted document for this purpose.

California Advance Healthcare Directive

The California Advance Healthcare Directive accomplishes two critical goals in one legal document.

  • First, it allows the creator to name another person to be their medical decision-maker if he or she were to become incapacitated. The document also allows the individual to nominate an alternative decision-maker for this crucial role.
  • Second, like a living will, the document allows the creator to give his or her medical providers instructions regarding intervention and treatment preferences.

Having a California Advance Health Care Directive is essential to ensuring that you have the right measures in place if you are incapacitated. You could be involved in a serious accident or become ill without notice, and if you don’t have an Advance Health Care Directive in place, your care and future could end up in the hands of someone you would not have selected or even in a legal conservatorship case. Your health is too important to leave to chance, and by creating your Advance Health Care Directive, you can make sure that the right person is there for you, and that your medical care is taking place according to your wishes. Contact an estate planning attorney today to discuss your Advance Health Care Directive.

At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we are experienced estate planning attorneys who can help you create an Advance Health Care Directive and plan for the future. Schedule a free consultation today.