End-of-Life Planning, and the Types of Documents MedicAlert Stores to Support It

Storing End-of-Life Documents Securely

Whether you are in overall good health or facing serious medical challenges, thinking about end-of-life planning can be difficult. Asking family and other loved ones to have a conversation about these end-of-life wishes can feel even more difficult. But it’s worth taking on the challenge, with benefits for you and your loved ones.

If you haven’t addressed end-of-life planning and the documents to record your wishes for medical care, you aren’t alone. One study found that only 1 in 3 adults completes these documents, known as advance directives.

Learning more about end-of-life planning and taking the steps to complete it ensures your decisions are heard if you are not able to speak for yourself. It is also a generous gift to your loved ones who would otherwise be faced with trying to guess what you would want at the end of life. It can even avoid conflict between family members who might disagree about what your choices would have been.

What kind of information is needed for end-of-life planning?

Many topics can be covered as part of end-of-life planning, including decisions about how medical care should be managed. Each of these decisions can be recorded so there are no questions about what your wishes are. Some information to gather includes:

  • Living will
  • Healthcare power of attorney
  • DNR (Do Not Resuscitate order)
  • Organ donation
  • Funeral plans
  • Obituary
  • Last will and testament
  • Personal and financial records

To put together all of these important pieces, you’ll need to involve several people who are key to the process. This includes family or other loved ones who may either be beneficiaries after your passing or tasked with executing your written wishes. Along with these people you trust, you’ll need to include:

  • Witnesses such as a notary – this person ensures that your documentation is recorded with a legal signature
  • Medical professionals – along with helping you weigh decisions related to medical care, your care team may be involved in creating documents like a DNR
  • An attorney – for some details such as a last will and testament, an attorney can advise on the best ways to protect your wishes

Using a system like MedicAlert’s document storage services to help you with organizing all of these important details is essential. This way, they can be easily found and accessed in an emergency or if you are unable to speak for yourself. This can be done with a membership in a MedicAlert Protection Plan at the Advantage Plus level.

You can read more about the Protection Plans here.

What is a living will?

A living will is a legal document that spells out your decisions about medical care at the end of life. Creating a living will with the help of your healthcare providers helps your loved ones clearly understand your wishes even if you are unable to explain them in a critical situation. 

The AARP notes that the following subjects can be a key part of a living will:

  • Your decisions about using life-saving or life-prolonging measures if you have no chance of surviving
  • The types of comfort measures you want at the end of life, such as dying at home, and avoiding invasive tests or procedures
  • Your specific choices about care options you would want, or decline- like tube feedings, artificial hydration, and mechanical assistance with breathing
  • Whether you would want to be an organ or tissue donor or donate your body to science after your death
  • Any spiritual or religious beliefs that you want to be honored at the end of life

The final step of preparing a living will is to make sure your family has easy access to the document. One way you can do this is to store a digital copy using a Protection Plan membership with MedicAlert.

What is a living trust?

When you put your financial assets in a living trust, you are creating a written agreement about who controls your property and how it is divided up among your beneficiaries when you die. You can be both the creator of the trust and a trustee at the same time (a person who manages the property and assets in the trust). 

At the time of your death, the trust is irrevocable and assigned to the person you name as a successor trustee, to manage the distribution of assets according to instructions you’ve created while living. It does not have to be reviewed by a probate court, and because of this, it is not part of the public record.

It’s recommended you consult an attorney and a financial advisor to set up a trust, as it’s a complex legal arrangement.

What is a last will and testament?

A bit less complex than a living trust, a last will and testament, known simply as a will, is a document that specifies who receives your property when you die. It can also name a guardian of your choice for any minor children. 

For many people, a will is arguably one of the most important parts of estate planning. It does not specify details about your healthcare wishes like a living will, but does outline financial details. Without a written will, a probate court will determine what happens to your assets at the time of your death. 

What are DNR directives?

A DNR, or Do Not Resuscitate order, is needed if you do not want CPR performed if your heart stops beating or your breathing stops. This form is one of the documents you can get help completing during a conversation about end-of-life care with your doctor.

It’s important to keep this form visible to first responders in case of an emergency. Some people keep the original copy displayed in a prominent area of their home, like the refrigerator door. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities often keep a copy on file in a person’s medical records.

You can also use a MedicAlert Protection Plan to store this document digitally so it can be accessed easily in an emergency.

What is a healthcare power of attorney?

Also called a healthcare proxy, a healthcare power of attorney legally designates another person to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you cannot.

The person you have appointed as your healthcare power of attorney (HCPOA) must follow your wishes, and only has the power to do so if you are unable to speak for yourself. You can detail these wishes within the healthcare power of attorney document.

This is another piece of documentation you want to be sure is easily accessible to your loved ones and healthcare providers. Membership in a MedicAlert Protection Plan can help you store your healthcare power of attorney safely for access.

How do I donate organs and tissue?

According to the US Health Resources & Services Administration, in the United States today there are 106,229 people on a waiting list for organ donation. If you have decided to become an organ and tissue donor, this is an end-of-life decision you should also be sure to share now.

You can do this in a couple of different ways:

It’s also important to let your family know your desire to be an organ donor. One way you can do this is to include information about your decision in your living will or healthcare power of attorney. You can then store them digitally with a MedicAlert Protection Plan.

Completing end-of-life planning creates peace of mind for all involved.

Resolving all of these end-of-life decisions and having a conversation with your loved ones about them is critical. By sharing your wishes with family and making sure you have legally documented them, you are giving your family a special gift. When they are faced with hard decisions, they will have the benefit of your voice to guide them even if you are no longer able to communicate your decisions.

Sources: What is a Living Will?The Most Important Talk You Need to Have With Your Doctor, 10 Things You Should Know About Living Trusts, Get Involved Locally, Advance Directive for End-of-Life Care, Powers of Attorney for Healthcare, Basic Estate Planning: Why Have a Will?, Organ Donation Statistics, National Donate Life Registry