Advance Health Care Directives

An advance health care directive, also known as living will, personal directive, advance directive, or advance decision, is a legal document in which a person specifies what actions should be taken for their health if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves because of illness or incapacity.

A living will is one form of advance directive, leaving instructions for treatment. Another form is a specific type of power of attorney or health care proxy, in which the person authorizes someone (an agent) to make decisions on their behalf when they are incapacitated. People are often encouraged to complete both documents to provide comprehensive guidance regarding their care.

In the United States, most states recognize living wills or the designation of a health care proxy. California does not recognize a living will but instead uses an Advance Health Care Directive.