Planning for End-of-Life Decisions

Many people put off end-of-life preparations, but it’s an important step to protect your wishes—and your family’s best interests. If you don't already have documentation of your plans and preferences, take steps to put them in place. 

Though end-of-life planning isn’t the easiest thing to talk about, discussing your wishes openly with your spouse and family can help them understand what’s really important to you. Handling your legal paperwork as soon as possible can give you added peace of mind.

Plans to make and documents to complete

There are different approaches and documents for ensuring your end-of-care wishes are followed. Your doctor, lawyer or a private advisor can help you make the right choices for your situation. If you complete a living will, advance directives or durable healthcare power of attorney, make a copy and share it with your doctor.

Some terms to know:

  • Living Will—a document of your end-of-life care wishes if you are unable to speak for yourself.
  • Advance Directives—this term simply refers to written instructions that let others know the type of care you want if you are unable to communicate them. Advance directives may include a living will and a durable healthcare power of attorney.
  • Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney—a document that names a healthcare proxy or representative to make care decisions for you in the case that you’re unable. Giving healthcare power of attorney to a spouse, family member or friend allows him or her to evaluate your health situation as it unfolds and make decisions in accordance with your wishes, beyond the dictates of your living will. If you don’t have this document in place, the state you live in may dictate who is allowed to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, based on family relationship.


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Couple end of life planning

Tips for approaching sensitive subjects

There may be times when either you or your loved ones aren’t in the right frame of mind to talk about end-of-life wishes. It’s important to involve your spouse or family, so acknowledge the need to talk about these important matters and plan a time when you each feel you’ll be ready. If it helps, write a list of the things you know you want to cover so you have a guide for the conversation.

Reviewing state regulations for end-of-life planning

Check your state regulations

Official forms and regulations vary from state to state. Talk to your lawyer about your state’s guidelines to make you sure your paperwork is compliant in your home state—or additional states if you have a second home or travel often. You’ll likely also need to have your forms witnessed, so give yourself some time to complete the process.


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