California End of Life Guide

Advance Directives 

Advance Directives are legal documents that allow you to make known your end-of-life care ahead of time. The state of California recognizes your right to decide the terms of your own medical treatment and to assign a person to make those decisions when you are not able to do so. 

Here are some important questions to consider before beginning this process:

  • Is this document(s) state specific? No

  • Does this document(s) need to be notarized? No

  • Does this document(s) require witnesses? If so, how many? Yes / 2

  • Can you legally use Aging With Dignity's 5 Wishes DocYes

There is a single Advance Directive form for California that you can download by clicking the button below:


(Source: California Office of the Attorney General)

Death with Dignity

Death with Dignity laws allow the dying more control of their death and end-of-life decisions. These laws allow terminally-ill, able-minded state residents to request and receive prescription medication to hasten their death.

In October 2015 California signed the End of Life Option Act into law, making it the 4th state with a Death With Dignity statute.

Designated Funeral Agent

California law supports the appointment of a designated funeral agent to follow through on your written personal preferences (see below) or make funeral arrangements on your behalf if no written preferences are indicated.

California Health and Safety Code Section 7100.1 obligates "A decedent, prior to death, may direct, in writing, the disposition of his or her remains and specify funeral goods and services to be provided." 

The appointment of a designated funeral agent will override the next-of-kin's usual authority and let the citizen designate whom he/she wants to control the disposition of his body. 

Financial Assistance

The state of California does not provide burial or funeral assistance. Most municipalities have a general relief budget to cover basic funeral or cremation costs for those on welfare and without funds to pay for a funeral. There are no provisions for services or viewing.

See our Financial Assistance Chart for more details.

Home Funeral

Home funerals, or family led funerals, are 100% legal in California. Your family or appointed agent may care for the deceased and handle all your funeral arrangements and necessary paperwork (permits and certificates) without a funeral director:

Check with the National Home Funeral Alliance for up-to-date details on how to navigate home funerals in California.

Personal Preference Law

Personal preference laws for body disposition obligate your survivors to follow your written personal preferences. This often goes hand-in-hand with designating a funeral agent to follow through with your funeral or body disposition preferences. In California, your written personal preferences will be upheld and should also be shared with your spouse, next-of-kin, or designated funeral agent.