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Important Documents for End of Life Care

Going through the last stages of life with an elderly loved one is hard enough without also having to try and remember what papers you might need to have ready too. In this article, we’ll take a quick look at some of the documents that everyone should have, and we’ll also see in another article what will happen if you don’t have the necessary documents.

Let’s get started.

The documents that everyone should have include the following:

  • Advanced Health Care Directive
  • POLST (Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment)
  • Will
  • Power of Attorney for Finance
  • Final Arrangements

Other things you might need are:

  • Trusts
  • Beneficiary forms

Now, let’s take a more in-depth look at each of these things, starting with the Advanced Health Care Directive.

Advanced Health Care Directive

What it does: An advanced health care directive allows someone to designate someone to make health care decisions for them if they are unable to speak for and do so themselves.

  • It is created by combining a living will with a durable power of attorney for health care
  • Versions of this form vary by state, but a form from one state will be recognized in another.
  • Many doctor’s offices and hospitals will provide this form at your request.
  • Those over 18 should have one
  • It should be completed while competent, so you know what you are signing. It should not be signed if you have a mental disability such as dementia.
  • It is often used to make decisions regarding feeding tubes, ventilators, or any other treatments for end of life or whenever someone is unconscious.
  • It is only required to be witnessed; it does not need to be notarized.

POLST (Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment)

What it does: The acronym stands for Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment. It replaces a DNR—or Do Not Resuscitate—order.

  • Lets those who have life-threatening illnesses to decide what treatment they do or do not want to receive. They do this with their doctor.
  • This document can be helpful if you do not wish for emergency responders to perform CPR and also informs on other such treatments you may or may not want to receive.


What it does: Outlines your wishes with regard to your estate (any money and belongings), and how you wish for those things to be dispersed to family, friends, organizations, and others after you pass away.

  • Also known as a Last Will and Testament.
  • Laws regarding estates often vary from state to state, but many of them will often honor those wills made out-of-state.
  • An attorney for those estates over $100,000 isn’t required, but it’s a good idea to have one help you write the will or look over what you’ve already written with you.
  • A will has to be completed while competent, so you know what you are signing. You cannot complete a will if you have a mental complication, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.
  • An executor or administrator can be named in a will, allow you to choose who will pay any final bills and carry out your final wishes.
  • The probate court will oversee the executor in order to ensure that wishes are carried out as outlined in the will.

Durable Power of Attorney for Finance

What it does: Gives a person of your choice access to your finances, like a checking account, any investments, or property so that they can pay bills for you.

  • Is valid even if you are incapacitated.
  • Has to be completed while competent, so you know what you are signing.
  • The person you name as power of attorney for finance must be someone you trust. If you don’t, you should talk with a professional.
  • A spouse might not have access to all funds unless everything, even investments, is held as joint property.

Final Arrangements

What it does: This allows you to state what happens after you pass away—whether you want to be buried or cremated—and informs your family members. Also makes your wishes known regarding things like donation of organs or any other special arrangements you might have.

  • Puts wishes in writing and consolidates them in a place that family members can easily locate them.
  • The more decisions you make prior to death, that’s fewer that your family have to make during an incredibly difficult time.


What it does: Creates a legal entity in which to hold your assets so that your estate can skip the probate process when you pass away.

  • Also known as a living trust.
  • A trustee can be named in order to care for the trust while you are alive and distribute items in the trust to any beneficiaries when you die.
  • You are able to be the trustee while you are still alive, and are able to name a successor who will step in when you become incapacitated or die.
  • A revocable trust lets you control everything happening with the trust while you are living.
  • An irrevocable trust is unable to be changed without consent from the beneficiary.
  • A variety of options are available for trusts to serve a specific purpose:
    • Special Needs Trust: Sets aside funding for the purpose of assisting one who is disabled.
    • Charitable Trust: Contains money to be given to charity.
    • Bypass Trust: An irrevocable trust that passes assets to spouse and then children when the second parent dies. This limits taxes on the estate.
    • Life Insurance Trust: Gets rid of life insurance from the estate, thus removing estate taxes.
    • Generation Skipping Trust: Lets grandchildren inherit assets directly without paying taxes.

Beneficiary Forms

Any bank accounts, investments, insurance, or retirement plans are able to be designated as “payable on death” to a beneficiary you name. This means that funds do not pass through the probate process, and allows for immediate access to funds.

If you or someone you love needs assistance with Elder Care law issues, call 856-281-3131. Let us help ease your stress and give you a plan.


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