This post is important enough that I might run a variation of it every month for year.
Let me spoil the surprise and give you the answer up front.
You should have:
A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
A Durable Power of Attorney for Finances
A Living Will
The first and second one let you name who will make decisions for you concerning health care and money, respectively. A living will tells doctors exactly what kind of care you do and don’t want to receive if you are terminally ill or incapacitated.
Fortunately, these are not bid ticket items in the world of estate planning, so there’s no real reason not to get them done.
The news is filled with battles between related parties fighting over the wishes of an otherwise incapacitated person. The US Supreme Court has ruled that a person has a right to direct the course of his own health care, even if family members disagree with those choices.
Although it’s difficult to think through all of the situations these documents need to cover (withholding of pain medication, food and water, etc.), you owe it to your loved ones to make clear your wishes in those situations.
On a related note, if you are the parent of a minor child, you absolutely, positively need to have a will setting down who you want to have custody of your child in the event of your death.
In short, unless you want to subject your loved ones to drawn out legal battles and financial hardships in the event of your incapacitation, if you don’t have these three documents then get thee to an attorney and get these documents drawn up.