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Will

A legal document that designates who will receive your money and belongings and who will be responsible for your young children (in the absence of the other parent) if you die. In many states, an agent of the state will make these decisions if there is no will. Decisions take much longer without a will.

Living Will or Advance Directive

A legal document that details your wishes regarding future medical care if you are no longer able to speak for yourself.

Medical Power of Attorney (POA)

A document that allows you to appoint a trusted person to make decisions about your medical care if you cannot make decisions yourself. It is also known as a health care agent or health care proxy. In many states, the person you appoint is authorized to speak for you any time you are unable to make your own medical decisions, not only at the end of life. Having conversations with your family members and loved ones about the contents of your living will can make these decisions much easier and reduce stress on your family in the event that you are unable to make your own medical decisions. Be sure your medical POA and health care team have copies of the signed directives.

Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Order

An order that your doctor writes on your chart if you decide you do not want “heroic measures” taken in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest. Your specific desires should be stated in the previously described documents. This is a medical order that states that if you stop breathing or your heart stops beating, you do not want to be hooked up to machines that will keep your body alive. It is very important to think about this issue and discuss it with your family and health care team before you become seriously ill. Your decisions about resuscitation should be documented in your living will and should be discussed with your POA.