Experienced Attorneys Help Clients Create Healthcare Directives

Santa Cruz estate planning lawyers offer personalized guidance

At some point in our lives, we come to realize that we are not invulnerable. We are bound to suffer the physical frailties that touch every human life. But when that happens, who will decide on the care we receive? At Penrose Chun & Gorman LLP in Santa Cruz, California, our estate planning lawyers help clients declare their preferences regarding lifesaving and life-extending interventions. An attorney for healthcare directives at our firm can help you take decisive steps that deliver peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

What is a healthcare directive?

In California, an advance healthcare directive is a legal document that combines features of a living will and a medical power of attorney. The document is comprised of two parts:

  • Healthcare instruction — In this part, you state the type and extent of care you want to receive if you are incapacitated.
  • Power of attorney for healthcare — In this part, you name an agent or healthcare surrogate to make decisions on your behalf. The POA can go into effect immediately or you can choose to transfer decision-making authority only after you become incapacitated.

The healthcare directive is different from a durable power of attorney, which transfers authority over your financial affairs to an agent in the event you become unable to manage them.

To create a healthcare directive, you must be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind. The document must be witnessed by two people or signed in the presence of a notary public. A Santa Cruz estate planning attorney at our firm can fully explain the process to you.

Types of medical decisions you can include in your advance directive

The healthcare instructions in your directive allow you to exclude treatments you feel are inappropriate. For example, elderly individuals might refuse CPR because it is too hard on the body. They can limit lifesaving intervention to medical measures or they can sign a “Do Not Resuscitate” order so that they may pass peacefully. Other measures that are controversial for some people include:

  • Ventilators
  • Kidney dialysis
  • Blood transfusion

As part of your instructions, you can also opt to make an organ donation.

Choosing who can make medical decisions for you

The person you choose to make healthcare decisions may be known by any of these terms:

  • Healthcare agent
  • Healthcare proxy
  • Healthcare surrogate
  • Healthcare representative
  • Healthcare attorney-in-fact
  • Patient advocate

Who you appoint is a deeply personal decision. Your agent must be a responsible individual capable of making difficult, emotionally charged decisions. He or she must be respectful of your personal choices, including your decision to refuse certain interventions. Typically, people appoint a spouse or an adult child to this role. Many people choose an alternate as well, in case the named agent is unavailable at a necessary moment.

What happens if you do not have a healthcare directive?

When a patient has not executed a healthcare directive, healthcare providers use all possible means of prolonging the patient’s life. This can create a confusing and stressful situation for your loved ones who don’t have the authority to intervene on your behalf. The result can be weeks or months of emotional turmoil with escalating medical bills that could bankrupt your estate.

Updating a healthcare directive

Once you have executed a healthcare directive, you should place a copy with your other important papers, and let your loved ones know you have it on file. The person you’ve appointed as agent should be given a copy. From time to time, you might want to update your directive, along with other estate planning documents, based on changed circumstances. Make sure to replace the outdated version in your files and to share the updated version with your agent.

Contact a dedicated estate planning attorney for healthcare directives in Santa Cruz

Estate planning lawyers at Penrose Chun & Gorman LLP draft healthcare directives for clients in Santa Cruz and vicinity. To schedule a consultation, call 831-515-3344 or contact us online.

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