You should consider what happens if you suffer health problems or suddenly die. There steps that can be taken now as part of your estate planning. These actions can help assure that your wishes are carried out and that your family is protected.

Health care

You can formally document your directions on health care before you are incapacitated and cannot make these decisions. This will help prevent misunderstandings.

A health care proxy or a medical power of attorney is a legal document that allows one or more individuals to act as your agent and make medical decisions for you if you ever become incapacitated. Typically, people authorize their spouse as their primary agent and their children or a close family member or friend as alternates.

A living will contains your instructions on your preferred treatment and long-term care and whether you want a physician to use resuscitation, ventilators, tube feeding and other life-sustaining procedures. Likewise, medical orders for life sustaining treatment are medical orders signed by doctors for patients diagnosed with advanced illnesses who may die within a few years.

You should also document your wishes on your funeral or memorial service.


Choosing an executor is an important decision. Executors must have the time and ability to manage the distribution of your assets.

Usually, a family member or close friend performs these duties with legal assistance. After you select an executor, discuss their duties sand your estate with them and notify your heirs.


A financial power of attorney is an important document. It authorizes a family member or friend to make important decisions concerning your financial affairs and pay for your needs if you become incapacitated. After you select an agent, you should discuss your assets and financial situation with them and introduce them to your legal and financial advisors.


You need to discuss your will and any trusts with your heirs and family to assure that they are not disappointed or surprised after your death. In addition to all the estate documents that you executed, they should also have access to and know about other important documents:

  • Life insurance policies.
  • Contact information for your doctors, lawyer, accountant, and financial advisors.
  • Bank, investment, mortgage, and loan statements.
  • List of credit card numbers and PINS to access these accounts.
  • Usernames and passwords for all online and social media accounts.
  • Any internet agreements with a funeral home or cemetery.
  • Vehicle titles, mortgage documents and tax returns and records.
  • Any business succession plans and ownership documents.

Attorneys can help you develop a plan that meets your needs. They can also assist your heirs and family members with your estate.