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Advance care planning in Massachusetts: The key documents

When most people hear the term "getting your affairs in order" they think about creating a plan for what should happen with their estate after they are gone. But another very important situation to plan for is if a medical crisis leaves you too sick to make your own health care decisions.

Would you want your loved ones to guess, and potentially fight, over what you would want? Or would it be better to clearly state your wishes through advance care planning? Most would agree that the latter is the much better option for all involved.

So, what does advance care planning in Massachusetts entail? Here are the five documents you need to know about, compiled by the non-profit Community Resources Information, Inc.:

The health care proxy: In this simple legal document, you choose someone to make medical decisions for you if you cannot do so yourself.

The living will: In this legal document, you set out the type of medical treatment you want if you become terminally ill or incapacitated.

The Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order: In this order that is obtained from your doctor, you can state that you do not want CPR to be used on you if your heart stops or you stop breathing.

The HIPAA release form: In the "Authorization for Release of Information" form, you can give someone else permission to see your medical records.

The power of attorney: In this legal document, you name another person as your "agent," who has the right to handle financial and legal matters for you.

Of course, an experienced estate planning lawyer can walk you through all of these forms in detail to make sure that your advance care plan sufficiently meets your needs. For more information, see our page on Health Care Proxies.

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