A medical power of attorney is a document that gives someone else the power to make your healthcare decisions in a situation when you can’t do it for yourself. This could be during end-of-life treatment, for instance, when you lack the ability to communicate your wishes to the medical team.

Another important document, known as an advance directive, allows you to list your wishes explicitly. You can make key decisions in advance so that no one has to make them in the future. For instance, if you don’t want to be resuscitated, you can put down that stipulation long before it’s an issue.

These documents clearly help you by making sure that you have someone with your best interests in mind making those choices for you and telling doctors exactly what you want. But they also help your family. They can overcome disputes and give your loved ones peace of mind.

For instance, what if you need some advanced life-saving treatment, like the use of a ventilator. Without these documents, your family has to decide not only what is best for you, but they also have to decide who gets to make that choice. It’s complicated. It can lead to hurt feelings and lasting resentment, and it may even mean that you get treatment you never wanted. This is already a stressful time for your family, and a lack of direction just makes it far harder than it has to be.

As such, getting your paperwork in order is about more than just yourself. It’s also about your family. Make sure you know what legal steps to take for the sake of your peace of mind and the people you love.