A California advance directive form is a document that stipulates all your health care preferences in case you are unable to communicate them, legally abiding by the state laws. It combines a medical power of attorney and a living will.
The advance directive assigns a health care agent to make vital decisions on your behalf. They will also communicate your health care wishes to your doctors based on what you’ve outlined on this form. Your agent is also responsible for making any decisions not specifically addressed in the document, acting in your best interest.
- Statute: California Probate Code Division 4.7, Part 2, Chapter 1.
- Signing Requirements: For your California advance directive to be legally binding, it needs to either be acknowledged by a notary public or signed by at least two witnesses over 18 years of age (Cal. Prob. Code § 4673). If you’re a patient in a skilled nursing facility, you’re required to have a patient advocate or ombudsman serve as a special witness (Cal. Prob. Code § 4675).
- State Definition: A California advance directive is an individual health care instruction or a power of attorney for health care (Cal. Prob. Code § 4605). It must meet the legal requirements detailed in Cal. Prob. Code § 4701.
- Revocation: You can revoke your advance directive by communicating your intention, destroying it, or creating a new advance directive to cancel the earlier version. If you’re competent and want to revoke the designation of your agent, you can create and sign a revocation of power of attorney form or inform your supervising health care provider. If your spouse is your agent, getting a divorce automatically revokes their powers (Cal. Prob. Code § 4695-4698).
How to Write
Make sure your California advance directive is valid and meets the legal state requirements by following the steps below:
Step 1: Choose an Agent
Your agent must be at least 18 years of age and should be a trustworthy person who knows your personal beliefs. They must follow the instructions you detail in your advance directive. If you don’t explicitly state your wishes in this form, your agent must consider your personal values to the best of their ability before making any decisions on their own (Cal. Prob. Code § 4684).
Your agent can’t be your doctor or anyone who works at your hospital or clinic unless they’re your family member or co-worker (Cal. Prob. Code § 4659). Additionally, at least one of your agents can’t be:
- Related to you by blood, marriage, adoption, or
- Entitled to any portion of your estate under the last will.
You can name up to three agents in a California advance directive. After your primary agent, you can name two others: your “alternate agent” and “second alternate agent.” If your primary agent can’t accept their appointment as agent, their powers are revoked and given to your alternate agents in the order their names are listed on your form.
Step 2: Specify What Health Care Decisions Your Agent Can Make
You can decide how much power your agent has. You can write out any decisions you don’t want them to make. For example, you could write: “I don’t want my agent to make choices about how my body should be treated after my death.”
If you don’t include limitations on your form, your agent will be able to make all health care and personal and some post-death decisions for you. Your agent is prohibited by law from consenting to the following on your behalf (Cal. Prob. Code § 4652):
- Convulsive treatment
- Placement in a mental health facility
You choose whether your agent can start making decisions for you immediately after your California advance directive is officially signed or when your primary doctor determines you’re unable to make health care decisions (Cal. Prob. Code § 4682).
You can nominate your agent as conservator or guardian of your person or estate (or both) for consideration by the court. If your agent is not able, your alternate agents can be nominated in the order they appear on your form (Cal. Prob. Code § 4672).
Step 3: Leave Instructions
Your agent and health care professionals must follow your health care and post-death instructions (if any). Specify if you want your life prolonged for as long as possible in the event that:
- You have an incurable and irreversible condition that will result in your death soon.
- You become unconscious and won’t regain consciousness.
- The risks of treatment outweigh the expected benefits.
- There’s any other scenario you want to describe.
Decide if you want treatment to help with pain or discomfort. You should discuss common pain management treatments and potential risks with your doctor in advance.
Choose whether you want to donate your organs and tissues or if you want to donate your body to scientific research. If you choose to donate, you can restrict which parts of your body are donated and what they’re donated for (transplant, therapy, research, or education).
If you have any other health care or post-death instructions, write them in this section of your California advance directive. For example, you can leave special instructions if you become incompetent while pregnant.
If you have a doctor you’re familiar with, you can appoint them as your primary physician. You need to include their name, phone number, and address.
You can download a California advance directive form below in PDF or Word format.