When trying to get your affairs in order, you may wonder which medical treatment estate planning documents you need to sign. In no particular order, you can choose to sign an advance directive, a power of attorney, a living will, a POLST form, or a DNR form.
An advance directive combines a medical power of attorney and a living will into one document. You can designate an agent to make medical decisions for you, explain which life-saving or -sustaining treatments you want to receive, and specify end-of-life wishes. An advance directive could contain instructions about when to remove life support, organ donation, last rites, making anatomical donations, funeral arrangements, and more.
Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney gives a specified person, called an agent, the legal power to make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated. You can specify in the power of attorney document which decisions the agent can make, or you can leave it open and allow the agent to make all necessary decisions. You should notify the agent that you choose so he or she knows to act in an emergency. Consider discussing your wishes in depth with your agent as well.
A living will explains your end-of-life wishes, including your wishes for life-sustaining treatment or lack thereof. For example, you can detail whether you want doctors to put you on life support, whether you want intubation or feeding tubes, and what you want to have happen to your body after death (organ donation, burial, or other options).
Similar to an advance directive or living will, a California Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form specifies which life-sustaining treatment you want to receive. You can check boxes to receive defibrillation or CPR, IV medications, or other kinds of treatment. If you have specific preferences about treatments you do not want to receive, a POLST may be a good idea.
Finally, a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) form tells doctors not to perform life-saving measures if your heart stops beating or you stop breathing. If you choose to fill out this form, you’ll want to carry copies with you or have it on file with your doctors.
Planning your estate? Look to Janet Brewer, Esq. for thorough and thoughtful estate planning advice. Janet’s more than 20 years of legal experience will give you confidence and peace of mind. To schedule a “Get Acquainted” meeting, visit Janet's website or call her office at (650) 469-8206.