Every Family Member Over 18 Needs an Advance Health Care Directive
Whether or not they have assets, every person who has attained age 18 should have an Advance Health Care Directive (which replaces the Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Living Will in California). Also, everyone should have a wallet card notifying medical providers that they have executed these documents.
Why a Health Care Directive is Important
This guidance is especially true for younger people who perhaps haven’t given health treatment much thought -- no one knows when incapacity will strike. And thanks to advances in medicine, unwanted or unnecessary treatments can be applied in many cases.
Imagine your child, Joanne, was gravely injured while on a ski trip with some friends. Joanne’s ski buddies are probably not in a position to make medical decisions for her; and because of patient privacy protection laws (i.e. HIPAA) the hospital may not be able to share the information with others about her condition anyway.
While it is true that a hospital or medical provider will make a good faith effort to contact the “proper” decision maker in an emergency, they have to know whom to contact. This is why a contact information card in a wallet and glove box is so important. It’s not enough to have a properly executed health directive sitting in a desk drawer.
The proper forms and witnessing requirements vary from state to state. A qualified estate planning attorney can help you draft the proper documents.
You may also find forms online – one offered by California Medical Association was recommended to us from an attorney we work with. You can find more information about Advance Directives and related issues on the CMA website here.