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Advance Health Care Directives: Do I Need One?

The advance health care directive is one of the most crucial estate planning documents that you can create for yourself. This document gives someone you choose (“agent”) the power to manage your medical and health care affairs if you become incapacitated or mentally impaired. It is a position of maximum trust. If you plan to appoint someone as your agent, appoint someone who has your highest confidence and who would manage your health care affairs with your best interests in mind.


Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when choosing your agent:

  • Utilize an Attorney: You may opt for a ‘do it yourself’ approach since you have found forms and templates on-line thinking it is faster and less expensive. Something to be aware of is that the laws in your state and county are specific or may have changed since the template you’re thinking to use was created.  You may not be creating the document that is right for you therefore producing a defective or incomplete document.  It is also easy to leave key areas blank on a template and/or not execute the documents correctly.  It is probably wise to consult an attorney who is experienced with these documents.
  • The Agent is Critical: Pick someone as your agent who you trust completely and who you have discussed various future medical scenarios with. Also pick an alternate agent in case your first choice becomes unable to do the task. Talk to your agent about your health conditions and what medication you are taking. Tell your agent exactly what you want.
  • Know What Powers and Rights the Document Contains: Today’s advance health care directive can contain many different scenarios about a future medical state such as feeding tubes and medical advances for prolonging life. Give careful thought as to what your desires are with respect to your given conditions. Also know exactly what rights and powers you are conferring on someone else.
  • Religious and Medical Beliefs. Sometimes principals and agents have different religious and medical beliefs. Make sure to discuss with your agent how your religious and medical beliefs may impact your health care wishes if you can no longer speak for yourself. Not everyone feels the same way about feeding tubes, prolonging life and emerging medical technologies. Perhaps you will discover that your agent may be uncomfortable with your points of view and you may want to appoint someone else.
  • Review Frequently: It is important to review this document often to make sure it reflects your current wishes as well as the viability of the agents and alternates you have selected. It is also important to make sure information is updated. Has your agent moved or changed their phone number?

A visit with an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss creating an advance health care directive or else discussing all the responsibilities that go with being an agent for an Advanced Health Care Directive is usually a good idea.

2890 N. Main Street, Suite 206
Walnut Creek, CA 94597


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