All seniors should inform loved ones and their health care professionals about their end-of-life wishes.

It is never too early to execute Advance Directives. What are Advance Directives?
Advance Directives are legal documents that help ensure that you receive the care you want if you are not able to communicate. These legal documents also help with financial matters. Discuss your needs and wishes with an attorney.

The most useful Advance Directives include these documents:

  • Living Will
  • Health Care Surrogate
  • Durable Power of Attorney

1. Living Will

A living will lets others know what care you want to receive if you cannot make medical decisions because you are in a seriously ill state. You prepare a living will when you are competent. You can put it writing:

  • What type of life-prolonging procedures you would want to receive or not receive
  • When you would want those procedures used
  • The name of the person to carry out your wishes
  • What role your religious faith should play in your care

Your doctor should carry out your wishes. If he or she cannot comply with your wishes, then your doctor should transfer you to another doctor’s care. Except in certain circumstances, your family cannot overrule your wishes and decisions. You cannot request euthanasia or assisted suicide in a living will.

2. Health Care Surrogate

A health care surrogate serves as the decision-maker about your heath issues if you are not able to communicate your wishes. You can limit the amount of authority that you give the person.

You must name your surrogate while you are still competent. A health care surrogate can make decisions for you ONLY if you are not able to do so.

You must name your surrogate in writing. Two attorneys must witness it. You may designate an alternate surrogate.

3. Durable Power of Attorney

This document outlines what powers you give to another person to act on your behalf when you are unable to act. Again, you must authorize Durable Power of Attorney in writing and while you are competent to do so.

You can use durable power of attorney for financial matters as well as health matters. The person who you name can take care of banking, property, and other actions. The person can also approve surgical procedures and other medical care for you.

Your durable power of attorney remains active until you die, revoke the power, or are judged incompetent by a court.