Q: Father didn't share the details of his Advanced Healthcare Directive with family, appointed agent. Can we get a copy?
My father passed away three weeks ago. He had utilized an Advanced Healthcare Directive and had appointed an agent, who was a close friend. He didn't share the details of the directive with (immediate) family, and the agent refuses to share the contents of it. My father has already been cremated. We have every intention of honoring all of my father's wishes, if only we knew what they were. Is it possible to obtain a copy of the directive?? If so, how would one go about doing so?
My condolences for the loss of your father.
California Health and Safety Code section 7100 specifically states: "The right to control the disposition of the remains of a deceased person, the location and conditions of interment, and arrangements for funeral goods and services to be provided, unless other directions have been given by the decedent pursuant to Section 7100.1, vests in, and the duty of disposition and the liability for the reasonable cost of disposition of the remains devolves upon, the following in the order named:
(1) An agent under a power of attorney for health care who has the right and duty of disposition . . .".
Only if there is no health care agent, does the duty and rights above fall first to a spouse, then to a majority of adult children, etc.
My experience is that cremation/mortuary companies closely scrutinize the contents of a health care directive, particularly when the agent is someone other than a surviving spouse or child. If they are in doubt, they'll have their legal department check it out before proceeding with cremation.
I'm not sure what you might be referring to with respect to honoring your father's wishes as the health care directive, after death, takes care only of matters such as organ donations, burials and cremations, not any financial matters.
A: Each health care directive contains different wording, but the most common language simply says the name(s) of the person or people who have authority to handle the final arrangements. The document doesn’t often say whether someone wants to be buried or cremated, although it’s possible for someone to include that. Since your father was already cremated, I’m not sure that the information in the directive will help. Both Health Care Directives and Powers of Attorney become void when someone passes away. If you are interested in learning what is in the now voided document, you may want to see if the mortuary will release a copy to you or try to find one among your father’s paperwork at his home or in a safety deposit box. There are strict privacy laws relating to healthcare, so you may not get a copy. If you want to know who is getting which assets as an inheritance, that information will be in a trust or will. If your father didn’t have a trust or will, it’s possible your family will need to go through the probate court to get a court order on that subject. Best wishes.
I'm sorry to hear about your father's passing. In California, the person appointed as the agent under an Advance Healthcare Directive has the authority to make healthcare decisions on behalf of the principal when the principal is unable to do so. However, the agent is required to act in accordance with the principal's wishes, as stated in the directive.
If you are the next of kin or the executor of your father's estate, you may be able to obtain a copy of the Advance Healthcare Directive. You can start by contacting the agent and requesting a copy of the directive. If the agent refuses to provide a copy, you may need to take legal action to obtain one.
Under California law, the agent is required to provide a copy of the Advance Healthcare Directive to the principal's healthcare providers upon request. You may want to contact your father's healthcare providers to see if they have a copy of the directive on file.
If these options are not successful, you may need to file a petition with the probate court to obtain a copy of the Advance Healthcare Directive. You will need to provide evidence that you are the next of kin or the executor of your father's estate, and that you have a legitimate interest in obtaining the directive. The court will then review the petition and decide whether to grant your request.
It's important to note that even if you obtain a copy of the Advance Healthcare Directive, you may still need to seek legal advice to ensure that you are interpreting and following the document correctly. A lawyer with experience in healthcare directives and end-of-life planning can help you navigate this process and ensure that your father's wishes are honored.
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