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Living Wills, Durable Powers of Attorney, and Advance Health Care Directives

Planning Ahead for Health Care Decisions

Self Help Books
Legal Encyclopedias and Law Summaries
Practice Guides
California Statutes

There are two basic kinds of health care documents: the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, naming a trusted person to direct your health care if you are unable to do so yourself, and the Living Will, setting out the types of medical treatment you would or would not like to receive in certain situations. You can also specify who you would is authorized to direct the disposition of your remains.  In California, these two documents are combined into a single form called an Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD).

There are three main options for creating an AHCD: California's statutory form, available in Probate Code § 4701 (and on the Forms Page of our website under Statutory Advance Health Care Directive); a pre-printed form from a group such as the California Medical Association; or an attorney-drafted form. In many cases, a pre-printed form may be the best option, because health care facility staff will be more likely to comply with the familiar form without the delay of legal department review. 

This guide lists materials in the library that cover advance medical directives and health care powers of attorney. The guide also lists helpful, authoritative websites.  


These are "plain English" explanations of the law, with basic procedures clearly described and many good examples. They often include sample filled out forms to help guide you through the process.  The books vary in style and format, so look through all of them to determine which one you find easiest to use and to understand.  These titles are all located in the Self-Help section of the Law Library, on the low shelves in the Civil Self-Help Center Waiting Room.

While the books listed here focus on living wills or AHCD, the library also has more general self-help books on estate planning, such as Estate Planning Basics,Alive and Kicking: Legal Advice for Boomers, You and Your Aging Parents, or Quicken WillMaker Plus, which contain chapters on this topic. 

Caregiver's Path to Compassionate Decision Making: Making Choices for Those Who Can't KF 3827 .I5 K55
This book has specific tips and tools for family members or other caregivers dealing with a loved one's incapacity. Appendix 2 has a common-sense explanation of the issues to consider when completing an AHCD.

The Complete Living Will Kit KF 3827 .E87 H36
This book also comes with a CD-ROM that can be customized to fit your needs.

Living Wills and Powers of Attorney for California KFC 110 .Z9 I78
This book comes with a CD that gives you the ability to customize these documents.
Electronic Access: From any computer (library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at

Similar self-help books include California Power of Attorney Handbook, KFC 110 .Z9 T35, and Power of Attorney Handbook, KF1347 .Z9 H35


Witkin Summary of California Law KFC 80 .W5 (Ready Reference)
Volume 14, "Wills," sections 876 et seq., explains and interprets California's law on advance health care directives.
Electronic access: On the law library computers, using WestlawNext.

California Jurisprudence (Cal, Jur.), III KFC 80 .C35 (Ready Reference)
"Death," sections 14–24, examines California's law on advance health care directives.
Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.


These books are written for the practicing attorney.  They cover the law and legal practice in more depth and detail, but they also contain more information about procedures, motions, and pleadings. Refer to these materials when the self-help books do not address your specific legal issues or concerns.  

California Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives KFC 110 .Z9 C35
This CEB practice guide discusses alternatives to AHCDs, ethical considerations for attorneys drafting them, and the fundamentals of AHCDs under California law. Chapter 8 usefully discusses the benefits of, and differences between, several commonly-available "fill-in-the-blank" forms, as well as lawyer-drafted forms. The guide suggests that unless there is a compelling reason to use an attorney-drafted form, using a pre-printed form may be advisable, since it will be readily and speedily accepted by health care facilities.
Electronic access: On the law library computers, using OnLaw. 

California Elder Law Resources, Benefits, and Planning: An Advocate's Guide
KFC 111 .A34 C35
Chapter 4 of this practice guide, also from CEB, discusses health care and personal decision making. This guide focuses more on advocating for clients than on drafting AHCDs, referring the reader to the California Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives guide for in-depth drafting advice. Instead this book focuses on issues to discuss with the client, such as the law surrounding such health care and end-of-life issues as advanced health care directives, "do not resuscitate" orders, physician-assisted suicide, pain treatment, autopsies, anatomical gifts, and more.  

California Legal Forms—Transaction Guide KFC 88 .C32 (Ready Reference)
Volume 33, Chapter 104 covers "Health Care Transactions, Consents, and Directives." Electronic access: on the law library computers, using the Matthew Bender CD.  


California Probate Code sections 4600 - 4805 contain the text of the California Health Care Decisions Law and the Uniform Health Care Decisions Act

  • Sections 4670 - 4695 specifically cover Advance Health Care Directives. 
  • Sections 4700 – 4701 provide legally acceptable language for the Directive.

West's Annotated Probate Code KFC 30.5 .W4 C59
The annotated code includes explanatory notes providing references for further research and summaries of court cases that have interpreted probate laws.
Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.

Deering's Probate Code AnnotatedKFC 30.5 .D4P76 (Compact Shelving)
This print annotated code also includes explanatory notes providing references for further research and summaries of court cases that have interpreted probate laws.

Electronic access:  On the Internet at  (unannotated). 


These resources offer sample forms, either fill-in-the-blank forms or more in-depth samples that attorneys use as the basis of complex documents.

Sacramento County Public Law Library Forms
California's Statutory Advance Health Care Directive
This form is set out in California Probate Code § 4701 and satisfies California's statutory requirements for an advance health care directive. 

California Attorney General
Advance Health Care Directive Form and Instructions
Clear instructions and a form that complies with the California Uniform Statutory Advance Health Care Directive requirements.

California Medical Association
Advance Health Care Directive Information & Kit
This form is probably the most widely used in California and will be readily recognized and accepted by California medical personnel. The CMA's form is not available for free, but can be purchased as part of a $6 kit in English or Spanish. 

California Hospital Association
Advance Health Care Directive
This free form is closely modeled on the California statutory language and provides more protection than the CMA version for persons who do not want to be kept alive through medical procedures when the risks and burdens of treatment outweigh expected benefits.  The form includes English and Spanish.

Institute for Healthcare Advancement
Easy to Use California Advance Health Care Directive
This form is written in plain language, with large type and illustrations, and is intended to be used by people who read below the fifth grade level. Available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.


American Bar Association
Living Wills, Health Care Proxies, and Advance Health Care Directives
Here you will find some very useful consumer-oriented information on advance directives, as well as links to related sections of the Bar Association's website.  

California Secretary of State
Use this site to fill out an interactive AHCD Registration form. Registration of your AHCD is not mandatory. If you register, information about your AHCD will be given to your health care provider, public guardian, or legal representative upon request. A request for information must state the need for the information.

Nolo Press   
Nolo Press publishes several of the self help books listed in this Guide.  Nolo also publishes many reliable and informative articles on this and associated topics, which you can read for free at their website.

Senior Legal Hotline of Sacramento
This group has a host of packets available to eligible seniors who call, e-mail, or visit their offices. On the website, click the link "Fact Sheets, Guides, and Legal Resources" for resources including a "Senior Legal Fact Sheet: Your Health Care: Who Will Decide If You Can't?" Or call (916) 551-2140 in Sacramento or (800) 222-1753 toll-free in California. Currently the hotline is limited to Sacramento County residents over 60, except for pensions.


updated 4/2014 kf