Will creation is an essential aspect of estate planning, especially when it comes to end-of-life matters. However, there are many other documents that will ensure you and your family are fully prepared should the unthinkable happen. The following documents are integral to end-of-life estate planning and should be implemented immediately, regardless of your health status or age.
Physician orders for life-sustaining treatment (POLST)
A living will is a traditional method of spelling out what (if any) life-sustaining treatments you desire in the event your health is severely compromised. However, even with a living will the family of the creator can be at odds with the directives contained within, especially when they go against family wishes. A POLST serves the same purpose, albeit with your doctor’s assistance. You and your doctor fill out the POLST document together, after which it becomes part of your medical record. This process also allows patients to receive clarification on specific treatments, which is useful for making the right decision.
Do not resuscitate/do not intubate (DNR/DNI) orders
While DNR/DNI orders can be included in POLST documentation, it is recommended that you establish them separately as well. It is crucial that medical personnel are privy to these orders, as they are permitted to start resuscitation without your express consent unless otherwise informed. You can carry a DNR/DNI card with you at all times or have the order posted somewhere in your home where it is highly visible, such as the front of your refrigerator. If you are in the hospital, you can also have DNR orders posted somewhere in your room.
Diminishing capacity letters
Signing a diminishing capacity letter with an attorney or financial advisor allows that person to contact others on your behalf if he or she suspects cognitive decline. The person contacted is often a power of attorney, which is someone who can act on your behalf financially and medically if you are incapacitated in some way. These letters provide protection against another party taking advantage of a person experiencing age-related cognitive issues, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia.