Essential components of a California estate plan are power of attorney documents and advance health care directives. These allow individuals to choose an agent to take care of certain matters on their behalf later in life.
Power of attorney
According to the Superior Court of California, the power of attorney document does not necessarily only provide authority to an agent in the event of incapacitation. An individual may make the power of attorney durable, meaning it is in effect until he or she dies, or the document may take effect only under certain circumstances. The individual may want these responsibilities to occur while he or she is out of the country, for example.
The responsibilities an agent may take over can involve:
- Taking care of financial transactions
- Purchasing or selling property
- Negotiating and signing business contracts
- Managing investments and other assets
- Hiring a caretaker
- Applying for health care benefits
Because of the nature of these types of transactions, it is essential to name agents who are trustworthy, financially responsible and capable of fulfilling the duties.
Advance health care directive
This document, according to the California Probate Code, may include a power of attorney for health care. As with the financial power of attorney, an individual names an agent to make certain decisions on his or her behalf. These decisions may involve consenting to or refusing certain treatments or health care services, selecting a health care provider or institution, donating organs and authorizing an autopsy, to name a few.
The individual does not have to turn all of these decisions over to the agent. He or she can express preferences in the advance directive, such as the chosen physician, which life-preserving treatments he or she wants and does not want, and other aspects of health care that may arise while he or she is incapacitated.