California law gives you the ability to insure that your health care wishes are known and considered if you become unable to make these decisions yourself.


Who may I appoint as my health care agent?

It is important that you talk to the people you plan to appoint to make sure they understand your wishes and agree to accept this responsibility. Your health care agent will be immune from liability so long as he or she acts in good faith.

You can appoint almost any adult to be your agent. You can choose a member of your family, such as your spouse or an adult child, a friend, or someone else you trust. You can also appoint one or more “alternate agents” in case the person you select as your health care agent is unavailable or unwilling to make a decision. (If you appoint your spouse and later get divorced, the Advance Health Care Directive remains valid, but your first alternate agent will become your agent.)

The law prohibits you from choosing certain people to act as your agent(s). You may not choose your doctor, or a person who operates a community care facility (sometimes called a “board and care home”) or a residential care facility in which you receive care, unless the person is related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption, is a co-worker.

Can I appoint more than one person to share the responsibility of being my health care agent?

The California Medical Association (CMA) recommends that you name only one person as your health care agent. If two or more people are given equal authority and they disagree about a health care decision, one of the important purposes of the Advance Health Care Directive – to identify clearly who has authority to speak for you – will be defeated. If you are afraid of offending people close to you by choosing one over another to be your agent, ask them to decide among themselves who will be the agent, and list the others as alternate agents.

Who can complete an Advance Health Care Directive?

Any California resident who is at least eighteen (18) years old (or is an emancipated minor), of sound mind, and acting of his or her own free will can complete a valid Advance Health Care Directive.

I want to provide more specific health care instructions than those. How do I do that?

You may write detailed instructions for your health care agent and physician(s). To do so, simply attach one or more sheets of paper and sign and date the attachments at the same time you have the form witnessed or notarized.

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