Do I Need to Have My California Living Will Witnessed or Notarized?

Learn about the requirements to execute your California living will.

Updated by , Attorney · George Mason University Law School

In California, your living will and medical power of attorney are combined into a single form called an advance health care directive. You can use your advance directive to document your health care wishes and to name a trusted person to make health care decisions for you when you can't make those decisions for yourself.

Sign Your California Advance Directive in Front of Two Witnesses or a Notary Public

After you create your advance directive, you must sign and date your document and have it either signed by two witnesses or notarized. (California allows digital advance directives, but they must be notarized and must comply with strict requirements for digital signatures.) (Cal. Prob. Code § 4673 (2024).)

If you choose to have the document witnessed, both witnesses must be adults and neither may be:

  • your health care agent
  • your health care provider
  • an employee of your health care provider
  • the operator of a community care facility
  • an employee of a community care facility
  • the operator of a residential care facility for the elderly, or
  • an employee of a residential care facility for the elderly.

Your witnesses must watch you sign the advance directive, or you must acknowledge to them that the signature on the advance directive is yours. (Cal. Prob. Code §§ 4674, 4701 (2024).)

In addition, one of your witnesses must not be related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption—and must not be entitled to any part of your estate by operation of law or under your will. (Cal. Prob. Code §§ 4674, 4701 (2024).)

Finally, if you're in a skilled nursing facility, the document must also be witnessed by a patient advocate or ombudsman. (This requirement applies whether the document is witnessed or notarized.) (Cal. Prob. Code § 4675 (2024).)

What to Do With Your Signed Advance Directive

After you have your advance directive witnessed or notarized, it's legally valid. Keep the original in your files and give a copy to your health care agent, if you named one. To ensure that you get the health care that you want, it's a good idea to make your wishes widely known. You might also consider giving copies of your advance directive to your physician, your hospital, your HMO or other insurance plan, and trusted family members and friends.

Review your document every few years to make sure that it still reflects your wishes. Also, consider making new documents if you move to another state, get married or divorced, or if your health care agent is no longer able to supervise your wishes.

Your properly finalized document will stay in effect until you revoke it if you ever choose to do so. You can revoke your document at any time. The best way to revoke your advance directive is to do it in writing. If possible, also collect and tear up all copies that you might have distributed to others. Finally, tell everyone who knows about your advance directive that you have revoked it.

More Information

Learn more about Living Wills & Medical Powers of Attorney.

Learn more about California's Advance Directive for Health Care.

When you make an advance directive with Quicken WillMaker & Trust or Nolo's Online California Health Care Directive, it will conform to California law and it will print with plain English instructions that detail how to make it legal.

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