University of FloridaSolutions for Your Life

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Publication #FAR9025

Planning for the End of Life1

Josephine Turner and Donna Davis2

Figure 1. 
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Because I happen to be married to a financial advisor, I had a living will before I was 40. Still, I thought he was crazy. Our kids were but babies, and we were young and healthy. Fortunately, we've never had to use our living wills, but the Terri Schiavo case certainly made it crystal-clear that health and youth have nothing to do with it!

When planning for the end of life, there are several documents you need to have in place. They include a power of attorney, advance directives, a living will, and a letter of last instructions. If you've been to a hospital recently, you've probably been asked if you have an advance directive. This is a written document which gives explicit instruction regarding your healthcare treatment or which names someone to make such health care decisions for you if you're unable to speak for yourself. The living will makes your wishes known regarding life-prolonging treatment and "artificially provided nutrition and hydration."

You should also name a health care surrogate: a person you trust to make medical and health care decisions for you if you cannot. There is a growing trend across the country to combine the living will and healthcare surrogate form into one document. If not, they should at least be done at the same time.

Addressing your own incapacity or death is never a pleasant or easy task, but being prepared for it can make dealing with it much easier on the folks you leave behind.

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website at

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This document is FAR9025, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 160 and published February 2008. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Josephine Turner, professor, and Donna Davis, senior producer, Family Album Radio, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.