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  • Daniel Rodriguez

The role of a living will in your estate plan

Updated: Mar 8

If you are making an estate plan, you may want to include a living will that outlines your wishes for end-of-life care. It can be important to have this document if you become incapacitated and cannot say what treatment you would prefer. The living will can also guide the person in charge of making your health care decisions. California has specific provisions for the creation and use of a living will.


Legal status

For the will to be valid, the person creating it must be at least 18 and of sound mind, as is the case with other estate planning documents. The will must be signed by the creator and witnessed. The living will goes into effect if the creator becomes terminally ill and two physicians attest to this. It does not come into effect if the creator is pregnant, and it can be revoked by the creator at any time regardless of the person’s state of mind as soon as the person communicates that revocation to a doctor.


When the living will is used

A living will essentially deals with situations in which further treatment would only prolong an inevitable decline and death, such as an irreversible coma. Doctors who cannot follow the provisions in your living will are supposed to transfer your care to another physician who can.


In addition to creating a living will, you should talk to your doctor and your loved ones about your wishes for end-of-life care. This offers an extra measure of assurance to both them and you that your expectations are understood. You may also want to create a healthcare power of attorney, which appoints someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. These two documents can give your loved ones confidence that they are proceeding as you would have chosen.

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