Ever since the Terri Schiavo case, the public has become increasingly aware of the need for advance health care directives. In fact, it’s one of the first topics that many of my clients raise during our first meeting about drafting their estate plan. Most do not want to be placed on life support when they are in a persistent vegetative state and the advance health care directive is typically designed to prevent just that scenario. However, what good is the document if nobody knows that it exists?
The State of California tries to address this problem by allowing you to register your advance health care directive with the Secretary of State. According to the Secretary of State, “the registration will include information regarding the location of the advance health care directive or a copy of the advance health care directive itself.”
Why would you do this? The Secretary of State provides the following example: “Suppose you are out-of-town and are admitted in an unconscious state to an emergency room. If you have registered your advance health care directive with the California Secretary of State, you are likely to have in your wallet or purse a card indicating that you have registered your advance health care directive. By following the instructions on this card, emergency room personnel will be able to obtain information regarding your advance health care directive from the California Secretary of State.”
Of course, this assumes that that the emergency room staff is aware of the registry, especially if you are admitted in a facility outside of California. Nevertheless, it may be worthwhile if you don’t feel like carrying your estate planning documents on your person at all times.
For more information about how to register your advance health care directive, you should check out the California Secretary of State website.
Thanks to Karen L. Taillon for researching this topic.