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California Living Wills Laws

What we call a "living will" is technically not a will, but a legal document expressing an individual's medical treatment preferences in the event they become unconciousness or otherwise unable to communicate. If someone does not want to be kept on artificial life-support, they can state this in their living will, for instance. California living wills law is encoded in the Natural Death Act, which outlines the legal requirements for a valid living will, rules for revocation, and other provisions.

Often, individuals named as health care agents in a durable power of attorney rely on living wills when making important decisions on behalf of the patient.

The following table provides the basic provisions of California's living wills law. See Should You Consider a Living Will? to learn more.

Code Section Probate §4600 et seq. Natural Death Act
Specific Powers, Life-Prolonging Acts Any medical procedure or intervention that will serve only to prolong the process of dying or an irreversible coma or persistent negative state; does not include treatment to alleviate pain or provide comfort care
Legal Requirements for Valid Living Will (1) Sound mind; (2) over 18; (3) signed by declarant; (4) witnessed by 2; (5) declaration shall contain substantially same information as form; (6) operative when declarant in terminal condition as certified in writing by 2 physicians; (7) not effective while patient is pregnant
Revocation of Living Will Revocable at any time in any manner without regard to declarant's mental/physical condition; revocation is effective upon its communication to the attending physician
Validity from State-to-State Declaration executed in another state in compliance with the laws of that state or California law is valid
If Physician Unwilling to Follow Living Will Physician shall take all reasonable steps as promptly as practicable to transfer the patient to a physician who is willing to comply
Immunity for Attending Physician Physician is not subject to civil, criminal, or professional liability for acting in good faith pursuant to declaration

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a California estate planning attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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