End of Life Documents

A Word of Caution

The documents referred to below deal with important end of life issues. Every adult should have these documents in place - regardless of your age or health. Life is fragile. Accidents happen.

Should you be incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself, how will your wishes be known? Who knows what your wishes are for your healthcare? Who will make those decisions for you? And on what basis will those decisions be made?

All of these documents should be completed and stored in a safe place. Several individuals need to know where they are located. Talk with family and friends about your choices for healthcare. Plan ahead. Accidents don't come with warning.

For more information, visit Washington Law Help. Select "Aging / Elder Law" for more information about wills, probate and other advanced directives.

For additional information, contact the Pierce County Aging & Disability Resource Center at (253) 798-4600 or (800) 562-0332.

Living Will

A legal document in which you state your wishes about certain kinds of medical treatments and life-prolonging procedures. The document takes effect if you can't communicate your own healthcare decisions. A living will may also be called a healthcare directive, advance directive or directive to physicians.

Power of Attorney

A document that gives another person legal authority to act on your behalf. If you create such a document, you are called the principal and the person to whom you give this authority is called your attorney-in-fact.

A power of attorney may be 'general,' which gives your attorney-in-fact extensive powers over your affairs. Or it may be 'limited' or 'special,' giving your attorney-in-fact permission to handle a specifically defined task. If you make a durable power of attorney, the document will continue in effect even if you become incapacitated.

For examples, look below to see durable power of attorney for finances and durable power of attorney for healthcare.

Durable Power of Attorney

A power of attorney that remains in effect if the principal becomes incapacitated. If a power of attorney is not specifically made durable, it automatically expires if the principal becomes incapacitated. See durable power of attorney for finances; durable power of attorney for healthcare.

Durable Power of Attorney for Finances

A legal document that gives someone authority to manage your financial affairs if you become incapacitated. The person you name to represent you may be called an attorney-in-fact, healthcare proxy, agent or patient advocate, depending on where you live.

Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare

A legal document that you can use to give someone permission to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make those decisions yourself. The person you name to represent you is called an attorney-in-fact.

Springing Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney that takes effect only when and if the principal becomes incapacitated.


A document in which you specify what is to be done with your property when you die and name your executor. You can also use your will to name a guardian for your young children.


The Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form represents a way of summarizing wishes of an individual regarding life-sustaining treatment. The form is intended for any individual with an advanced life-limiting illness. The attending physician, nurse practitioner or PA-C completes the document with the patient.

Living Trust

A trust you can set up during your life. Living trusts are an excellent way to avoid the cost and hassle of probate because the property you transfer into the trust during your life passes directly to the trust beneficiaries after you die, without court involvement.

The successor trustee - the person you appoint to handle the trust after your death - simply transfers ownership to the beneficiaries you named in the trust. Living trusts are also called 'inter vivos trusts.'