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Health care directives are an important part of an estate plan

As estate planning covers a lot of ground, it can be difficult to ensure that everything necessary is included in your plan. Preparing for every possible scenario may seem impossible and can certainly be overwhelming. However, there are some basics that every estate plan should include in order to ensure that you have full protections in place.

Whether you reside in California or elsewhere, one thing that no estate plan should be without is health care directives. These elements of an estate plan are important to protect yourself and make things easier on your loved ones.

What is the purpose of health care directives?

If an illness or injury were to incapacitate you, who would speak for you? Who would make important medical decisions on your behalf? Who would make your wishes known and ensure doctors follow them?

Health care directives are legal documents in which you give clear instructions for the medical care you do or do not want. You can also name a person who will be your proxy for when you are unable to speak for yourself.

The many forms of health care directives

The law considers several legal documents as acceptable forms of health care directives. These include:

  • Health care powers of attorney
  • Living wills
  • Behavior health treatment forms
  • DNRs

Which kind do I need?

The answer to this will be different for everyone. The forms you need will depend on the type of care and treatment you would like to receive. An experienced attorney will be able to help you determine which health care directives will best suit your needs.

What happens if health care directives are not in place?

If you become incapacitated and you do not have health care directives prepared, generally your family members and doctors will need work together to determine what, if any, medical care you will receive. This, of course, can cause a lot of frustration because family members will not always agree on what is best.

Don't just fill out the forms, make sure they are valid

Health care directives that are not legally valid are worthless. Do not just fill out the forms; make sure you have done what is required for the state of California to legally recognize them.

Generally, for health care directives to become valid, you must sign them with witnesses present, and they may require notarization.

Seeking protection now will only benefit you and your family in the future

To some, health care directives seem unnecessary. However, by not having them in place, your loved ones may not honor your wishes for treatment, and your family members could face a tough situation if forced to make decisions regarding your care.

There simply is no harm in including the protections offered through health care directives in your estate plan. An experienced attorney will be able to answer any questions you have about this topic and assist you in preparing only those legal documents that you truly need.

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Law Office of Jeffrey B. Pape, P.C.
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