If you ever lose the ability to communicate because of an accident or disability, would your loved ones know how you wished to be cared for? You can save them the burden of decision by preparing a living will and a healthcare power of attorney—two legal documents that together are called an advance directive.
A living will lets you specify what medical treatments you would and wouldn’t want should you become terminally ill. For example, it might state that you want any treatment that might prolong your life, regardless of your life’s quality, or that you don’t want life-sustaining treatment unless it will restore consciousness.
A healthcare power of attorney allows you to name someone who will make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so. You’ll need to give someone you trust the authority to apply your healthcare values. He or she should be capable of understanding complicated medical issues, have the ability to make tough decisions and be strong enough to override the opinions of well-meaning relatives or friends who may disagree with your stated wishes.