One of the most important papers you can have in your files is a living will. This document specifies your wishes for medical treatment should serious injury prevent you from communicating them.
It’s best to have both a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care. In a health-care power of attorney, you designate one specific person to be your agent and make health-care decisions for you if you can’t.
A health-care power of attorney is important, as no single document can foresee every health emergency. Sit down with the person you designate and talk about your wishes. It would be helpful to videotape this conversation.
Assign only one person to represent your wishes, to avoid possible conflicts. You can, however, assign an alternate in case your first choice is unavailable or unwilling.
Sign the forms as required, usually in the presence of two witnesses who are not relatives, people who will inherit from you, or physicians who will attend you. In some states you must sign before a notary.
In some states, living wills or health-care durable powers of attorney are valid only for a certain number of years. Whether you live in one of these states or not, it is a good idea to review your directives every two years. Initial and date them if they still meet your needs.