Berge & Berge, LLP Blog

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The End of Life Option Act Doesn’t Replace a Living Will

Q: What if any impact will California's right-to-die law have on estate planning?

The End of Life Option Act, also known as California’s right-to-die law, was recently reinstated. The highly controversial law allows terminally ill people whose doctor has determined they only have six months or less to live to obtain a prescription to end their life.

A significant portion of a comprehensive California estate plan has nothing to do with transferring assets upon death --which is generally accomplished through a last will and testament and/or trust document. Rather, the estate planning documents in addition to a will or trust help plan for incapacity rather than death.

Planning for incapacity documents often include Durable Powers of Attorney that designate a trusted person to handle your financial affairs and/or your health care decisions if you become incapacitated through illness, injury, or otherwise and are rendered unable to do so yourself. In addition, a Living Will allows you to state the medical treatments that you would or would not want to have in the event you become permanently unconscious or terminally ill. These treatments include Do Not Resuscitate/DNR orders, as well as instructions regarding artificial respiration, hydration, tube-feeding, and more.

With the California right-to-die reinstated-- at least for the time being--terminally ill patients with less than 6 months to live can conceivably end their own lives before their condition deteriorates to the point where their durable power of attorney for healthcare and their living will would be implemented.

Critics of the law feel these sick and vulnerable people “deserve protection and support, not assisted suicide". In certain situations, it’s conceivable that such a law may open senior citizens to elder abuse. Some of the sick patients may feel pressure to end their lives prematurely to spare their loved ones the cost of continued medical care in a terminal situation. Proponents support the right to control your own destiny.

Regardless of whether the law remains in effect or not, it only covers very limited circumstances. Accordingly, Californians should still consider protecting themselves and their loved ones’ futures through Living Wills and Durable Powers of Attorney which would be required for countless situations that may render them incapacitated.

If you need assistance with an initial estate plan, or would like to modify an existing one, the estate planning experts at the Law Offices of Berge & Berge can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

From our offices in San Jose, California, we’ve been proudly serving the South Bay Area for over 23 years in all matters of trust and estate planning law.

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