Necessary and Recommended Documents for Massachusetts
The following documents are important for preparing for the end of life. Having them on hand will help your loved ones know your wishes and having them on hand can bring a great peace of mind to you and to them. Even if you are legally married, it is best not to leave these decisions to your spouse, who may not even quite know what your wishes are.
We recommend downloading these forms and having conversations with your spouse, partner, family, and friends, so that your loved ones know what you want in case of emergency or at the end of life.
And remember to share your completed documents with the people whom they will affect and your loved ones in general. If you want your wishes to be honored, others need easy access to what those wishes are.
Note: While these documents should be prepared by everyone whenever possible, what they are called and their formats vary a bit from one US state to another. The titles and specifics listed here apply to Massachusetts.
If you would like help completing any of these forms or have other questions, please contact us. We are here to help. If you live in another state and would like help or more information, we may be able to put you in touch with a Death Midwife close to you.
Living Will / Personal Directive
Before the official list, let’s talk for a moment about a Living Will. Massachusetts is one of only a few states that do not permit legally binding Living Wills. However, the legal elements of what would be covered in a Living Will are mostly handled by the Health Care Proxy and the Comfort Care/DNR document. Though it’s not legally binding in MA, a Living Will, or Personal Directive, will still give your loved ones and health care providers a clear idea of what your wishes and intentions are in the case that you later become unable to communicate those to them.
Download the Personal Directive long form. This includes everything on the short form as well as information about spiritual/religious preferences, funeral arrangements, and the final disposition of your remains.
Official Documents for Massachusetts
1. Health Care Proxy (known in some places as Power of Attorney for Health Matters)
We recommend that you complete this form (you will need witnesses) and provide your doctor with a copy, as well as have one on file yourself, even if you are not preparing for the end of life. Your doctor and your family should know who is “in charge” of your health if you become unable to state your own wishes.
2. Durable (Financial) Power of Attorney
Fill out and/or Download the Power of Attorney Form This is an e-form that you can either fill out online before printing, or print first and fill out with a black pen.
This form allows someone to act on your behalf in Financial Matters. You can specify when this kicks in, for example, if you are incapacitated. We call it “durable” because it allows your designee to make decisions for you even if you are unable to concur.
3. Comfort Care/DNR (Do Not Resuscitate)
This is just what it sounds like: an order that will prevent medical personnel from attempting to resuscitate you (“bring you back”) if you have clinically died, even for a few seconds. Usually this means not allowing CPR to be performed. This document must be filled out ahead of time and signed by your health care provider in order to be valid. It must also be made available to emergency services, so you will need to have a plan for that if this is important to you. Without a valid DNR, medical providers will make all possible attempts to revive you if your heart stops or if you stop breathing.
If you are in declining health, you will likely want to investigate a MOLST – the Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. This will allow you to specify different levels of care and emergency treatment. Again, this needs to be signed by a medical provider to be valid.
4. Will (Last Will and Testament)
This specifies the distribution of your assets after you die. This document should be prepared with the help of a lawyer in order to ensure its durability. We may be able to refer you to an attorney in the area who specializes in estate planning to help with this.