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California directives make your wishes clear during incapacity

Many California legal documents, like some trusts, cover asset transfer wishes for individuals in robust health. Other estate planning documents, like wills, have no effect until a person dies. However, neither of these documents will do much good if you become incapacitated and unable to manage your finances and health care decisions.

Well-rounded Los Angeles estate plans take incapacity into consideration. If you bypass the subject, however, your doctor might order a treatment that you don't want, or your adult child might have to submit a costly, avoidable probate petition to become your legal guardian.

A health care power of attorney, health proxy or advanced directive designates someone else to make your medical choices in these types of situations. This can be supplemented by a medical information release form and a living will, which consists of the instructions you want health care providers to follow when you are in a terminal state. The documents can be as simple or detailed as you choose.

A durable power of attorney, separate from a health proxy, is a document that transfers the management of your finances to another person or party. In most cases, the transition occurs before incapacity, usually at the time the document is executed.

Estate planning attorneys can provide all these resources to cover incapacity, although some standardized forms are widely available. Keep in mind a lawyer also can explain the documents' contents, answer your questions about incapacity, certify validity according to updated laws and customize documents to your specifications.

Legal and health professionals recommend preliminary discussions about end-of-life intentions with the parties your choices will most affect - doctors, financial institutions and your family. The more they know, the better they will be able to fulfill your needs at a critical time. Advance directives keep incapacity from catching you off guard.

Source:, "4 Key End-of-Life Documents to Get in Order" No author given, Dec. 03, 2013

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