4 Documents You Really Must Have

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Have you ever watched the TV game show “Family Feud?” Imagine if contestants were asked, “What are the most important documents to keep in a safe?” While answers like “birth certificate” or “marriage license” might get top billing, there are a few others that deserve equal attention.

Advance directives, such as living wills, are less well known but just as important as the more common treasured papers in your lock box. They capture your instructions and preferences so that even when you are unable to speak, you know that your wishes will be honored and your loved ones will have peace of mind.

It’s never too early to create these important planning tools. To start, review this list of four useful advance directives:

  1. Living Will: This legal document tells medical professionals and your loved ones exactly which treatments you do (and do not) want.
  2. Durable Power of Attorney: This written authorization empowers another person (like a family member) to make medical care decisions on your behalf.
  3. Letter of Instruction: Consider this a complement to your will. In it, you might provide instructions for the care of a pet or passwords for important accounts.
  4. Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNS): A DNS gives you control over what happens to your body, no matter what. In this directive, you specify the particular scenarios in which medical professionals should forgo CPR.

Though these are difficult topics to discuss, putting clear guidelines down on paper will make things easier for you and your family in the long run. You can find more information about advance directives right here on CareConversations.org, including links to state-specific forms and instructions.

CareConversations.org provides resources and advice to help you and your loved ones make informed and confident decisions about the care they may need now and in the future. Visit our About page to learn more.