No one ever plans to be sick or disabled. But being prepared for all kinds of health situations can make all the difference in an emergency.

Here’s what you can do now to be ready:

  • Put your important papers and copies of legal documents in one place. Check regularly to see if there’s anything new to add, and learn more about what counts as an important paper. If you live at a distance from Mom or Dad and want to help, here is some advice for long-distance caregivers about how to get started organizing this paperwork.
  • Tell a trusted family member, friend, or lawyer where you put all your important papers.
  • Give consent in advance for your doctor or lawyer to talk with your caregiver as needed. There may be questions about your care, a bill, or a health insurance claim. Without your consent, your caregiver may not be able to get needed information. You can give your okay in advance to Medicare, a credit card company, your bank, or your doctor. You may need to sign and return a form.

There are many different types of legal documents that can help you plan how your affairs will be handled in the future. Many of these documents have names that sound alike, so make sure you are getting the documents you want. Also, state laws do vary, so find out about the rules, requirements, and forms used in your State.