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The Advance Health Care Directive

African American news from Pasadena - Personal Finance - Advance Health Care Directive explainedA complete estate plan consists of three core documents: (1) a Revocable Living Trust (or a Will in certain limited circumstances); (2) a Durable Power of Attorney; and (3) an Advance Health Care Directive. In this article I will focus on the third document.

An Advance Health Care Directive is a written document in which one person (the principal) designates another person (the agent) to make medical decisions on the principal's behalf when the principal is unable to make medical decisions for him or herself. The principal may also predetermine which decisions should be made in certain medical situations. The Advance Health Care Directive thus serves two distinct purposes: (1) appointing an agent, and (2) expressing your desires concerning the medical treatment you would prefer under given medical circumstances.

Under California law, as long as you are able to give informed consent concerning your health care decisions, you may of course make your own decisions. The problem arises when you lack the capacity to understand the nature and consequences of a particular decision or are unable to communicate your decision. If you lack capacity to make decisions for yourself, decision-making authority is given in the following order of priority:

(1) an agent you verbally designated during a hospitalization;

(2) an agent you designated in an Advance Health Care Directive;

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