Some California residents may think they have all aspects of their lives planned. They may have homes, careers and possibly children, but they might not have a comprehensive estate plan. If you are young, you may feel that you have ample time to work on the estate planning process, but you might not be thinking about the unexpected. Both younger and older adults need to have a plan in place in case things do not go as planned.

One important legal document to have in place is an advance medical directive, which is an instrument that determines who will make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated. That person is typically someone of legal age who is deemed competent to be able to make such decisions on someone else’s behalf. There is a belief that advance medical directives are for those who are old or sick, but that is not true. Circumstances can change in a moment; for example, injuries or sudden illnesses can render people unable to make decisions on their own.

Many people confuse the advance medical directive with a living will, which outlines people’s specific wishes if they are no longer be able to express them on their own. For example, a living will may include directions as to whether someone wants to be kept alive via a respirator or intubation or if they want to spend their final days without any such intervention. However, a living will alone may not offer the protection needed in order to carry out one’s wishes.

Estate planning is a multi-faceted process that includes protecting physical assets as well as planning for difficult health care decisions. It’s never too early to set up an estate plan; therefore, an honest discussion with an experienced attorney might be a beneficial starting point. A knowledgeable attorney might be able to recommend a suitable course of action for those beginning the process as well as for those who wish to review their current estate plan.