Advance Health Care Directives in California

In California, an Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD), governed by California Probate Code Section 4701, is an essential tool for planning future medical care. This document lets you express your health care wishes and appoint a health care agent who can make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. Here, we discuss the procedures for creating an AHCD and the considerations you should make when doing so.

1. Procedures for Creating an Advance Health Care Directive

a. Choose a Health Care Agent: Select a trusted person who understands your health care preferences and values to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so. This person can be a family member, friend, or any trusted adult but should not be your health care provider or an employee of your health care provider.

b. Draft Document: Fill out an AHCD form, which consists of two parts:

  • Part 1 – Power of Attorney for Health Care: Here, you appoint your health care agent. You can also specify any restrictions or guidelines for your agent.
  • Part 2 – Instructions for Health Care: Here, you express your health care wishes, such as end-of-life decisions, comfort care preferences, organ donation, and your preferences related to other medical procedures.

c. Sign and Witness the Document: Sign the AHCD in the presence of two witnesses or a notary public. Witnesses must be adults, and at least one of them must be someone other than a family member or an heir. If you are in a skilled nursing facility, a patient advocate or ombudsman must witness your signing.

d. Distribute Copies: Provide copies of your completed AHCD to your health care agent, doctors, and any health care institutions that have your medical records.

2. Considerations for an Advance Health Care Directive

Understanding Your Health Care Wishes: Make sure you fully understand your own values and preferences related to health care. You might want to consider potential situations and what you would want in those circumstances, including life-sustaining treatments and end-of-life care.

Choosing Your Health Care Agent: It’s vital to discuss your health care wishes with the person you select as your health care agent. This person should be someone who knows you well, understands your values, and is capable of making potentially difficult decisions under pressure.

Review and Update: Review your AHCD periodically, especially if your health status changes. You can revoke or change your AHCD at any time, provided you are mentally competent.

Remember, this page offers a general overview of California Probate Code Section 4701 and the creation of an AHCD, but it’s crucial to seek advice based on your specific situation.