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Have you updated your health care directives?

Ask most people what an estate plan is for and you will get the same approximate answer -- it is for dividing an estate after death. However, this is just one part of estate planning, and only putting in the bare minimum with a will leaves people in California vulnerable, particularly as they near the end of their lives. Although it can be uncomfortable to discuss end-of-life wishes, health care directives can provide guidance during emotionally strenuous times.

A living will is essential, especially for those who have strong feelings regarding certain medical interventions. This document is used to outline what kind of care a person would like to receive in their later years, and can even include preferences for residential or in-home treatment. It also makes sense to include useful information, such as primary and alternate physicians, insurance information, medical records and preferred hospitals.

Having a living will alone will not ensure that a person's wishes are carried out. A medical power of attorney names a trusted individual to make these decisions on another person's behalf when that individual is no longer able to make medical decisions on his or her own. It is common to name an alternative surrogate in the instance that the first is unable to perform.

In California, the living will and power of attorney come together to create health care directives. This is an essential part of estate planning that should be updated regularly to reflect changing wishes on medical care or dynamics with the named surrogates. By taking the time to review and update estate plans as needed, individuals in California can ensure that their final wishes will be respected.

Source: Investopedia, "Advanced Estate Planning: Healthcare Documents", Stan Murray, Accessed on Oct. 10, 2017

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