Most people are confused about the different types of paperwork they ought to have to get their estate in order. Here are four things to know:

1) Living wills tell the world what you want done medically in a worst-case scenario. They’re completely different from a will, which disposes of your assets and names a guardian for minor children.

2) Power of attorney for health matters is also an important document to sign. This allows you to designate a person to act on your behalf, and make medical decisions for you, even if you haven’t written a living will. It’s also more flexible than a living will, although it’s recommended you have both.

3) Power of attorney for financial matters allows the person you designate to manage your money, pay for medical treatment, rent, mortgage, other expenses until you’re able to again. Powers of attorney kick in either on a specific date (if you’re undergoing surgery, for example), or if you become incapacitated.

4) It won’t work if no one knows. Hand out copies to your doctor, attorney, and spouse/partner. Keep a copy in your home safe or safe deposit box.

You can buy a form living will and powers of attorney at a local stationary store. Just make sure it’s valid in the state in which you live. Your estate attorney or estate planner may also be able to provide you with a blank form to fill out. If you want to be an organ donor, that is a separate form. In the state of Illinois, you just need to sign the back of your driver’s license.

Living Will forms are available free of charge from:

Illinois Department on Aging

Illinois Hospital Association

Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission