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Importance of a Living Will in California

Importance of a Living Will in California

A living will in California is an essential document to include in your comprehensive estate plan. It is a legal document that states your healthcare preferences for end-of-life care. A Living Will helps you prepare for the unexpected such as a life threatening car accident or an illness which quickly causes deterioration.

talking with a lawyer regarding living will

It addresses decisions such as CPR, mechanical ventilation, tube feeding, dialysis, and palliative care.

A living will is a completely separate document from a last will and testament and can also be known as an Advance Healthcare Directive or Advance Directive. It is recommended that every adult should have a living will. In my practice, we discuss the Advance Healthcare Directive (AHCD) which is a group of documents that includes a living will and other components such a power of attorney for healthcare.

In California, the state provides consumers information on End-of-Life Care including AHCDs. The AHCD includes a section detailing an individual’s living will wishes. The living will allows you to state what life sustaining measures you wish to allow and wish to refuse, for example specific surgeries, feeding tubes, or breathing tubes. It comes into use in the event of a terminal condition, coma, or permanent vegetative state.  A living will also allows you to state that legally you are withdrawing your consent to artificial nutrition and hydration as a form of medical treatment.

A living will also allows you to specify medical treatment plans based on your religious or spiritual beliefs. For example, if your religious beliefs forbid the use of certain medications or blood donations, you can instruct in your living will that these methods not be used, even if they could increase your odds of survival. 

Do I Need a Living Will in Carlsbad?

We recommend that all adults have a living will. Here are the top five reasons to include a living will in your Carlsbad, California estate plan:

  1. You are prepared for the unexpected.

You never know when an accident or medical disaster could occur, so it is important to be prepared for the unexpected. Whether it is the result of general cognitive decline, an illness, or sudden injury, anyone can become incapacitated at any time. A living will give you peace of mind that you will be properly cared for in the manner you direct in such a situation. That is why it is an “Advance Directive” – you are directing in advance, while you are competent in your mind, what instructions you want to be followed should you can no longer be able to communicate for yourself.

  • Your choices for end-of-life care will be followed.

A living will ensure that your doctors follow your choices for end-of-life care, when you cannot communicate these decisions yourself. Through this document, you have expressed your medical treatment preferences and specified exactly which treatments you authorize and those you refuse. Your medical treatment is an incredibly personal decision that a living will allow you to control, even during your incapacitation.

  • You will limit the stress and guilt on loved ones.

When an individual is receiving end-of-life care and does not have a living will, family members are responsible for making these critical decisions. Loved ones can suffer from guilt, confusion, and anger as they decide the so called best course of action. The emotion behind making decisions, such as whether to continue life support, can overwhelm even the most rational family members. Without your express instructions, family members may even become estranged over how decisions were made and enacted. However, if you have a living will, your family will have no questions about your preferences. They will instead have some comfort in knowing this is what you would have wanted.

  • Prevent family arguments.

It is common for family members and loved ones to worry and even disagree, sometimes vehemently, about medical treatment in the absence of a living will. Loved ones may have differing opinions morally and ethically based on their religious beliefs or feelings about you. Without your living will, they cannot know definitively what you would have wanted or the correct course of action. These disagreements can cause intense, long-lasting fights and even costly legal battles. Even if everyone is well-meaning, there can easily be varying opinions rooted in memories of conversation about how you once said you wanted to be treated. Parents may have different emotions as compared to spouses. Children may have differing opinions then your spouse or your parents. Your living will is your voice instructing your loved ones on what you want in this sad and difficult time.

  • You can avoid depleting your estate.

Some individuals create a living will to ensure that their estate is not spent on medical care when there is little to no chance of recovery. Medical costs can quickly add up and wipe out your entire estate. Some people would rather their property be passed down to later generations. If there is no living will, your family may feel obligated to keep you alive, no matter the cost.

See Carlsbad Estate Planning Lawyer Andrew Fesler About Living Wills

Even though websites advertising Do It Yourself living wills, we strongly recommend consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney like Andrew Fesler. As you see outlined above this is a important document and Attorney Fesler can make sure to guide you through choices and what to consider. For most of us, we haven’t really thought deeply about end of life decisions or palliative care. California has designed requirements that you must follow when creating a living will. If you do not meet all the requirements, your living will is not valid so its important to have a living will drawn up by a knowledgeable lawyer.

As indicated earlier, in California, living wills are often combined with the power of attorney for healthcare, which is different from a durable power of attorney. As a lawyer who has developed many Advanced Healthcare Directive (AHCD) packets, Attorney Fesler is able to answer your questions and guide your choices, based on your personal life view. He can alert you to areas that people sometimes fail to address if they are doing it themselves.

Once you have properly completed your living will/advanced healthcare directive, we recommend you put the original in a safe place and give copies to your medical providers, family members, and your attorney. You will want the original’s location to be known so that it can be available if it is needed.

Keep a record of who has a copy of your living will and update who needs a copy over time. Also review your living will every few years to ensure that nothing has changed and if you ever change your living will, you should give each person on your list an updated copy.

Your Carlsbad Estate Planning Attorney

Andrew Fesler is an experienced Carlsbad estate planning attorney with over twenty years of experience. He is a qualified lawyer and can create a comprehensive estate plan that includes a living will and all parts of an Advance Heathcare Directive. Contact our office today at (760) 444-0943 for a free consultation.

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Kathy S.

Mission Bay


Andrew provides excellent professional work, and is very kind and understanding, which is an extra bonus! Especially when the work required is difficult for a client in many ways.

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