Your health care directives—including your living will and power of attorney (POA) for health care—might be the most important estate planning documents you ever make. Giving your family clear, written direction about your end-of-life wishes can spare them anguish—and make sure you get the kind of care you want. With these documents, you can set out the kinds of treatment you want, or don't want, and name someone who will make sure your wishes are honored even if you can't speak for yourself.
Some documents, such as Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) orders and POLST orders, are used in more limited situations, usually emergencies. You may want to make one if you are concerned about end-of-life care.
Without guidance from you in these legal documents, family members and health care providers can easily become uncertain about treatment decisions. And when family members disagree about what course to follow, the consequences are sometimes rifts that are never resolved.
Living Wills and Powers of Attorney for Health Care: An Overview
Put your health care wishes in writing, in case you are ever unable to speak for yourself.
What Do a Living Will and Power of Attorney for Health Care Cover?
Medical issues to address in your living will and power of attorney for health care.
Types of Health Care Directives
Find out more about living wills, medical powers of attorney, advance directives, DNR orders, and POLST orders, and when to use each.
Mental Health Care Decisions and Psychiatric Advance Directives
Most states define health care to include mental health, and most health care directives cover issues of mental health.
Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Orders
Depending on your health and your preferences, you may want a DNR order when you’re thinking about end-of-life documents.
About Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) Forms
A POLST form helps you get the end-of-life treatment you want. However, it's not a substitute for an advance health care directive.
Find out the similarities and differences between DNR orders and POLST forms, and why neither is a substitute for a living will or advance health care directive.
View More Articles
Use a living will to leave instructions about your health care.
Choosing Your Health Care Agent
Name the best person to direct your medical care if you are unable to do so yourself.
State Restrictions on Health Care Agents
Your health care agent is the person that you name in your health care directive to work with your doctors to direct your healthcare and make treatment decisions for you in you are unable to do
State Laws on Pregnancy and Health Care Directives
If you’re pregnant your health care wishes may be overruled by your state law.
Finalization Requirements for Health Care Directives
After you complete your health care directive, you must follow your state's rules to make it legally valid and binding.
Helping an Elder Make a Power of Attorney
Here's how to help an elderly loved one make a financial or medical power of attorney.
View More Articles
Living Will or Advance Directive Registries: Should You Use Them?
Learn about registering your living will or advance directive.
Will Other States Accept My Living Will & Health Care Power of Attorney?
In most cases, your health care documents will be honored in other states.
Do I Need to Have My California Living Will Witnessed or Notarized?
In California, you must sign your advance health care directive in front of two witnesses or a notary.
California Living Wills and Advance Health Care Directives: What You Need to Know
Don't put off making a California advance health care directive (power of attorney and living will).
Texas Living Wills and Medical Powers of Attorney: What You Need to Know
Why do you need a living will and medical power of attorney in Texas? If you become unable to direct your own medical care
Pennsylvania Living Wills and Advance Directives: What You Need to Know
Making a Pennsylvania advance directive (health care power of attorney and living will) keeps important decisions in the hands of those you trust.
View More Articles
California’s End of Life Option Act
Find out what the requirements are for obtaining a prescription for life-ending medication under California’s law.
New Jersey's Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act
A new death with dignity law allows terminally ill patients to request aid in dying under certain conditions.
Texas has never officially considered adopting a death with dignity law. However, citizen groups are actively working to legalize aid in dying in Texas.