Throughout life, individuals deal with a number of vital documents that protect their legal and health interests.

Such documents become even more important for seniors organizing their wishes for distribution of property and possessions after they die, as well as providing for their end-of-life care and comfort.

While such subjects can be difficult to discuss, and knowing what you need and where to find it may take a bit of time, having the proper documents can be a great comfort, saving time, money and heading off potential family conflict.

Basic Documents

These are the records that are often top of mind when getting affairs in order. They are the documents recording important stages in life, including birth, marriage, adoption and death records (in event of a deceased spouse).

Divorce decrees, military records, driver’s licenses, passports and copies of deeds and estate tax bills would fall under this category.


Most important among documents is a will or trust, which legally outlines the distribution of property and possessions. A will should be drawn up with an attorney and should not be confused with a living will. Having a will provides you with the power to distribute property, rather than leaving decisions to the state.

Durable Power of Attorney and Financial Information

Documentation of trusts and amendments, bank and credit accounts and safe deposit box numbers are among the records necessary to help organize finances.

Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) designates someone to conduct matters on behalf of another person in almost every area of life. The powers granted to the DPOA become effective as soon as the document is signed, and the rights continue until the person who issued it passes away.

In assigning a DPOA it is important to ensure it meets the requirements of the state where you and your loved ones live.

DPOA gives a person responsibility to conduct matters in areas like real estate, banking and finances, government benefits, trust and beneficiary transactions and personal and family maintenance issues.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

Also called a medical power of attorney or health care proxy, this is someone chosen to make health care decisions in the event the individual becomes mentally or physically unable. A DPOA for health care should be separate from a DPOA for finances.

Important health care documents include Medicare number, identification card and Medicare Savings Program (MSP) information (if the individual qualifies). Also included are Medicaid number and identification card, Medicare prescription drug coverage information and insurance policy numbers and providers for all types of coverage including health, life, disability and long-term care.

Living Will

This is the document that includes the person’s wishes regarding life-sustaining treatments, should they become unable to communicate. It is a written, advance directive that informs physicians and other providers of an individual’s end-of-life wishes as carried out by the DPOA for health care.

Do Not Intubate, Do Not Resuscitate

After meeting with the proper health care professionals for advice, individuals can opt for Do Not Intubate (DNI) and Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) directives if deciding to refuse the insertion of a breathing tube or if the very physical process of resuscitation is seen as too damaging to a frail body.

A DNI or DNR should be filed with the physician and/or respiratory therapist and also displayed in a prominent visible place in the home so it can be seen by emergency response personnel.

Advance Directives

Actually a collection of documents, these are some of the most important details for an individual to arrange.

Advance Directives deal with the use of life support machines, feeding by tube, organ donation and types of end-of-life comforts ranging from music and blankets to loved ones present.

Advance Directives can be written without a lawyer.

According to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, there are two types of advance directives to consider: the health care proxy and the living will. The person named on the health care proxy form only has authority if the individual becomes permanently unconscious or unable to speak for himself and has a terminal condition.