WHAT IS A LIVING WILL?
Although the name of the document is somewhat misleading, a living will is not really anything like a last will and testament.
Whereas a San Jose resident would use the latter to distribute property after her death, a living will is a document that doctors and loved ones will use while the person is still alive yet unable to communicate her wishes.
Specifically, under California law, a resident of this state can make out a living will to specify whether and to what extent he would like doctors to continue to afford what is dubbed life-prolonging care. Things like respirators are commonly considered life-prolonging since, without them, a person would not survive.
A living will can guide doctors and others when a patient is not conscious and has a terminal condition as attested to by two doctors. In fact, if a doctor does not wish to carry out the terms of a living will, then she must transfer the patient to a physician who will do so.
Oftentimes, Californians will use a living will in conjunction with other estate planning documents, such as an appointment of a health care agent. An appointed health care agent can use the living will to guide him making important medical decisions for the patient that the patient cannot make for himself.
Creating a living will, and then executing its terms, could actually be seen as the first step of a successful estate administration. When handled correctly, a living will can serve to promote family harmony and can assure that a person's final wishes get carried out.
However, it is important to follow the legal requirements for creating a valid living will in California. It is also important to carefully consider the legal and other ramifications associated with creating this document.