If not addressed, these important matters could wind up in the hands of estranged family members, doctors, or sometimes even judges, who may know very little about what you would prefer. It can also make a sensitive time even more difficult for family members if your preferences were not clearly outlined and addressed. For example, having to make the decision of continuing or ending life support can be a huge burden that haunts your family for years to come.
Nolo.com does a good job discussing the two basic documents that are needed when planning for the potential of becoming incapacitated:
There are two basic documents that allow you to set out your wishes for medical care: a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care. It's wise to prepare both. In some states, the living will and the power of attorney are combined into a single form - often called an advance directive. (In fact, both of these documents are types of health care directives - that is, documents that let you specify your wishes for health care in the event that you become unable to speak for yourself.)
First, you need a written statement that details the type of care you want (or don't want) if you become incapacitated. This document is most often called a living will, though it may go by a different name in your state. A living will bears no relation to the conventional will or living trust used to leave property at death; it's strictly a place to spell out your health care preferences.
You can use your living will to say as much or as little as you wish about the kind of health care you want to receive.
Powers of Attorney for Health Care
You'll also want what's usually called a durable power of attorney for health care. In this document, you appoint someone you trust to be your health care agent (sometimes called an attorney-in-fact for health care, health care proxy, or surrogate) to make any necessary health care decisions for you and to see that doctors and other health care providers give you the type of care you wish to receive.If you would like to discuss these documents and other legal issues that affect you and your family, please get in touch with our office: burtonandassociatesllc.com.