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Basic information on living wills

A lot of California residents confuse living wills with actual wills. However, living wills are actually quite different. These documents -- which are also referred to as "directive to physicians" and "health care directives" -- express an individual's preferences with regard to medical care in the event that he or she cannot communicate those preferences due to incapacitation.

The most common living wills give people the ability to state that they do not want to receive various kinds of medical treatments and artificial life support, even if it is required for them to stay alive. Now, it has become more common for these health care directives to provide directions relating to organ donation, resuscitation, tube feeding and other types of high tech medical treatments.

All states, including California, have laws that allow for living wills. However, the guidelines for drafting a living will varies from state to state. Therefore, if a California resident currently has a living will document that was drafted in another state, it would be wise to review the document with a qualified California estate planning attorney to ensure that it conforms to our state laws.

A living will is a very powerful document because it requires health care providers to adhere to its instructions. In fact, doctors must adhere to the instructions in a living will, even if family members try to disagree with its terms. This is particularly important to help avoid family arguments and disagreements over medical care following one's incapacitation. California residents may wish to speak with an estate planning attorney to address their questions about what kinds of living wills are available, and what types of circumstances such a document can cover.

Source: FindLaw, "Living Wills: Introduction," accessed Dec. 17, 2015

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