End-of-Life Planning Documents


Legal editor, attorney

Cake values integrity and transparency. We follow a strict editorial process to provide you with the best content possible. We also may earn commission from purchases made through affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more in our affiliate disclosure.

When we die, there is much that we leave behind, from our family and possessions to our property and bodies. Unless we’re prepared, making sense of it all is left up to our loved ones—an at-times difficult endeavor, especially amidst grieving.

To make things easier, planning out your preferences after death is an important step, and there are a number of documents available to you to help you capture how you would like things to go.

Common end-of-life planning documents

Here are a few common documents to help you plan for when you pass.

You can create most of these legally and online with Trust & Will. This is the most affordable option that guides you through end-of-life planning step-by-step from the comfort of your home. 

» MORE: Grief can be lonely. Create space for your community to share memories and tributes with a free online memorial from Cake.

Advance Directives

An Advance Directive is created to make sure your medical treatment decisions are followed if you are no longer able to communicate. Advance health care directives can include the following pieces:

  • Living Will: In the event you are unable to communicate and require medical treatment, this document outlines which kinds of medical interventions are acceptable and which ones are not, according to your preferred quality of life. Because every situation can’t be predicted and doctors will be interpreting the Living Will, some people prefer to trust their medical decisions to a family member instead, with a Health Care Proxy Form.
  • Health Care Proxy Form, also known as Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare: This document designates someone as your health care proxy or power of attorney to make any medical treatment decisions when you are unable to make them for yourself. This document can include specific instructions for certain situations, but it’s impossible to predict every medical situation.. Ideally, this person understands how you define a good quality of life.
  • POLST: A Physician's Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form is intended for people who are nearing the end of life. This document captures preferences on what kinds of life-sustaining treatments you find acceptable, such as feeding tubes or ventilators. This document must be signed by a doctor to be valid.
  • HIPAA Release: A release of your rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) allows the loved ones you designate to access your medical information. It is always a good idea to sign a HIPAA release as part of your estate plan so that your doctors know it’s okay to talk to them about your health.

Ready to start filling out your state's forms? Check out our advance directive resource to locate and download your state's forms.

» MORE: An online memorial is a perfect ending to honor and celebrate someone's life. Create one for free.

Estate planning documents

Estate planning documents are used to make sure your assets and any dependents you have are taken care of in the way you see fit after you pass. They can include the following:

  • Will: You may create a last will and testament in order to make sure all of your property, money, investments, and other possessions are given to the people you choose. 
  • Trust: You may wish to transfer your assets into a trust that has specific rules on when and how the money or assets can be used and by whom. A trust is primarily used as a way to avoid the formal probate process.
  • Guardianship Forms: If you have children that are dependents, filling out guardianship forms makes clear who you want to take care of your children in case you die before they are of legal age.
» MORE: Your family has 500 hours of work to do after you die. Learn how you can make it easier for them

The gift of being prepared

Each of these documents will help clearly outline to your loved ones and doctors how you want to be treated at the end of your life. Thinking about death and dying, though difficult, will ensure your medical preferences are respected until the end and allow you to lift the burden of straightening your affairs from your loved ones after you go.

If you're unsure where to begin, FreeWill is a tool that helps you get started from home. Taking any step is always better than taking no step, especially when it comes to legal documents protecting your future. 

Cake is a website that helps you proactively make all your healthcare, financial, funeral, and legacy decisions. It’s easy to share your end-of-life plan with loved ones so they don’t need to guess about your final wishes someday. Create a free Cake plan to get started planning today.

Disclaimer: The information posted on this site is provided solely for informational and educational purposes and is not legal advice or tax advice. Contact an appropriate professional licensed in your jurisdiction for advice specific to your legal or tax situation.

Icons sourced from FlatIcon.