Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care in California

By Jeffry Olson, J.D.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care in California

By Jeffry Olson, J.D.

A power of attorney, or POA, is authority granted by someone (the principal) to another (the agent) to make healthcare or financial decisions on the principal's behalf. A durable POA is one that continues to be in effect even after the principal becomes incapacitated. The state of California has created the Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD), which a principal uses to appoint an agent to make healthcare decisions if the principal becomes incapacitated and to express the wishes of the principal regarding medical treatment and end-of-life decisions.

Man and elderly woman working on a laptop together

California Law

The California legislature passed the current California law regarding the AHCD in 2000 as Probate Code Section 4673. That section of the Probate Code establishes the requirements for its validity. If a durable power of attorney meets those requirements, it qualifies for use.

Prior to 2000, principals used a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions and a Natural Act Declaration in California. If executed prior to 2000, this directive remains effective. Although following it exactly is not a requirement, the state-approved form is available in Probate Code Section 4701. A valid AHCD must identify the date and have the notarized principal's signature and the signatures of two witnesses. California law allows another adult to sign on the principal's behalf if the principal cannot sign, as long as the principal is present. The law allows for electronic signatures if the parties meet the requirements for signing electronically and if the document is notarized.

Completing the AHCD

The statutory AHCD form contains a number of substantive provisions regarding the health care the principal wishes to receive and how loved ones and doctors should proceed and make decisions regarding the principal's health care if the principal becomes incapacitated. This can include administering and withholding various forms of treatment. Further, it includes identifying the principal's preferences regarding hospital, hospice, or home care when death is near.

It may also include any other provisions regarding health care and issues important to the principal nearing death. The principal should complete the form while working with a family member, doctor, or someone familiar with end-of-life healthcare decisions.

Upon Completion of the AHCD

In the form, the principal names an agent to make healthcare decisions on their behalf, in accordance with the terms of the document. After completing the document, the principal should notify the agent about the directive. They may also register it with the California Secretary of State, but registration is not necessary. If the principal does register it, the state can make it available to healthcare providers.

California's AHCD provides a convenient, efficient form for a durable power of attorney, allowing a principal to state their healthcare and end-of-life medical decisions in the event they become incapacitated. If the document meets statutory requirements, California courts—and more importantly, California medical professionals—will consider it valid.

If you are a California resident, consider executing a California AHCD as soon as possible. If you need additional information regarding how to set up a healthcare power of attorney or other durable power of attorney, you can visit the California Secretary of State website to learn more about the process and how you can draft your POA.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.