Many of us have thought about writing a will, but there are several other documents you need to cover all aspects of your end of life wishes. Without them, your family will have to make tough decisions on your behalf, not knowing what you would have wanted.
This illustrated guide explains the 9 most important end of life documents. Plan ahead for yourself and your loved ones and create these essential end of life planning documents today:
End of Life Planning Documents
The 9 documents covered in this infographic complement each other to form a comprehensive end of life plan. Let’s take a closer look at each:
1. DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) Order
A DNR form — also referred to as “allow natural death” or “no code” — communicates that you don’t want to receive life-sustaining treatment in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest.
In other words, if you want medical professionals to allow for a natural death instead of restarting your heart or performing CPR, you and your physician should sign a DNR order.
2. Living Will
A living will indicates your wishes for end of life medical care if you become unable to communicate.
Your living will document should state your preferences regarding medical treatments such as:
- tube feeding
- comfort care and pain management
- mechanical ventilation
- antibiotics and other medications
- organ and tissue donation
Even if you’re a registered organ donor and have a DNR form, it’s still a good idea to repeat these preferences in your living will.
Some states require an advance directive, which combines a living will and medical power of attorney.
3. Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament indicates how you want to distribute your assets after your death. Also called a “will” or “last will,” this document should not be confused with a living will, which is used to document medical care preferences. In this document, you name an executor (and successor executors) to manage your estate based on your wishes and assign beneficiaries to inherit assets.
You can also use your last will and testament to indicate funeral preferences, especially if you want to set aside funds for a service.
4. Living Trust
A living trust is an estate planning document that places your assets into a trust and designates how the assets will be distributed after your death. Different types of trusts allow you to manage your estate according to your preferences.
Unlike a last will, a trust avoids the probate process, which saves your beneficiaries time and money.
5. Financial Power of Attorney
A financial power of attorney (financial POA) gives a person of your choosing (called an agent, attorney-in-fact, or proxy) the legal ability to act on your behalf and help manage your financial affairs.
With this highly customizable document, you can designate an agent to help with a specific task, like selling property, to take over all of your financial responsibilities should you become incapacitated.
6. Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney lets you assign a trusted person — called your “agent” — to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to communicate your wishes. Unlike a financial power of attorney, this type of POA doesn’t give your agent access to your finances.
A medical power of attorney only takes effect if you become incapacitated. Some states require an advance directive, which combines a medical power of attorney with a living will.
7. Organ and Tissue Donation
If you wish to donate your organs and tissues to someone in need after your death, you need to register as an organ donor.
Take a moment to ensure you are registered if this is part of your end of life wishes.
8. Funeral Plan and Obituary
Planning your own funeral can seem daunting, but it’s a huge gift to your loved ones to indicate your funeral preferences and set aside funds so they don’t have to plan while grieving.
This also gives you a chance to consider how you’d like to be remembered — through a service, obituary, epitaph, or any other form you choose.
9. Personal and Financial Records
Organize your important papers such that the right people can access them if you have a medical emergency. In addition to your personal and financial records, include instructions for important matters, such as your medications, how and when bills are paid, and debts you’re owed.
With these documents in place, you ensure your family and medical professionals know exactly how to carry out your wishes in case you can’t express them yourself. Take steps today to ensure you have all the necessary estate planning legal documents to create a comprehensive estate plan and give yourself peace of mind.