Blog Home > Blog > Advanced Directives

What kind of care would your loved one want to receive in the event of an injury or illness that leaves them unable to explain their wishes? Who do they trust to answer questions about their care on their behalf? These questions and more are what advanced directives seek to answer.

Every adult should take the time to put advanced directives in place. It’s not just something to consider for the elderly – there are events and injuries that happen to young and healthy adults every day that make advanced directives useful. In this article, we’ll get into the details on advanced directives: what they are, why you and your loved ones need them, and how to put them into place. By the end of this article, you’ll be a pro on advanced directives. Let’s dive in.

What are Advanced Directives?

An advanced directive is a general term to describe the legal documents that detail your wishes for your life, care, and belongings in the event something were to happen to you that left you incapacitated. They look to answer the tough questions in advance of such a catastrophe so that your family and care team can proceed to honor your answers without confusion.

The two most common types of advanced directives are:

  • A Living Will.
  • A Power of Attorney.

Living Will

We all know that a traditional will is a legal document that lays out what happens to your belongings after you’re gone. In contrast, a living will is a legal document that describes how you’d like to be cared for while still alive in the event it’s determined that you’re either dying or permanently unconscious. Common types of things to address in a living will include:

  • Whether you’d like to be given dialysis or a breathing machine.
  • Whether or not you would accept tube feeding.
  • If you’d like to be resuscitated in the event your heart or breathing stops.
  • Whether you’d like to donate organs or tissue.
  • And much more.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a document that defines exactly who you trust to carry out your wishes. You can grant both a medical and durable power of attorney.

A medical power of attorney designates the person you’d like the doctors to go to with questions on your care and health. A durable (general) power of attorney, on the other hand, designates the person you’d like to have access to your bank accounts and other assets. This person is someone you trust to keep your home bills, medical bills, etc. paid and other life decisions made on your behalf in the event you have a long recovery process or are incapacitated for a long period of time. Both types of power of attorney may be written for the same trusted person, but they are not the same.

How to Put Advanced Directives in Place

How to Put a Living Will in Place

The living will rights and requirements will vary by state. For California’s legal requirements, we recommend the State of California Attorney General’s guidance which can be found by clicking here. The state also provides an advanced directive worksheet for you to fill out here.  While this form meets the legal requirements for a living will in California, using this form is not itself mandatory. If you spend significant time in other states, we recommend reviewing the laws applicable in those states as well to ensure your wishes are recognized wherever you are.

How to Put a Power of Attorney in Place

A power of attorney has a strict procedure to follow for legal recognition. Please review the California state government website here for more information on this process and step-by-step instructions. If you spend significant time in other states, we recommend reviewing the laws applicable in those states as well to ensure your wishes are recognized wherever you are.

Closing Thoughts

Advanced directives are a way to clarify your loved one’s wishes for care and their assets in the event they become incapacitated and unable to explain their wishes.  While it can be an uncomfortable conversation, it will ultimately provide clarity, peace of mind, and the answers you’ll need should the time come for end-of-life or long-term care while incapacitated.

The role of caregiver is always tough, but you’re part of a large, strong, and helpful community of people who are or have been in your shoes. The California Caregiver Resource Centers were created with you both in mind and at heart to be a free resource as you navigate the challenging role you’re in. We would love to connect you with your local Center, which can talk more about local programs for caregivers, answer your questions, and explain how they can best support you.

Share this post: