Most people in California know that estate planning is useful for leaving inheritances for heirs, but this is only a small part of a much larger picture. A well-rounded estate plan should also include a living will and power of attorney. These two documents allow an individual to address things like end-of-life issues, including preferences for medical care and who will make those decisions if necessary.
Making decisions about medical care and treatment is usually very personal, and people want to be sure that their wishes and preferences are being respected. If a person is suffering from a severe injury, in a coma or otherwise unable to make those decisions, his or her living will should provide a blueprint for care. Living wills cannot address every possible medical situation, but they frequently address life-prolonging care, pain management and do-not-resuscitate directives.
A living will is not effective unless accompanied by a power of attorney, which designates one person to make medical decisions on another’s behalf. A power of attorney can give that person the legal right to make all medical decisions, but it might also limit his or her authority. For example, he or she might not be allowed to actually make any decisions, but only deny treatments that are not in line with the patient’s medical wishes.
End-of-life dignity should be afforded to everyone, but doing so can be very difficult without any clear guidance. This is why creating a living will and power of attorney is so important. Even though talking about these types of medical decisions can be uncomfortable, it is an essential component of estate planning that no one in California should overlook.