Colorado residents should all have four basic documents in place in case of serious injury, sickness or death.
A will is necessary even for people without a lot of assets to leave. If you have minor children, you need to specify in your will who is to have both custodial and fiduciary guardianship of them in the event of your death. You will also appoint an executor to manage your bills and pay off your debts. Have this conversation with the individual first before designating them.
A durable power of attorney is necessary to name someone to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated. While many people choose to name their spouse, consider that if you are seriously injured in an accident, your spouse could also be grievously hurt or even killed in the same incident. It's best to have a contingency plan in place with someone else named.
A medical power of attorney is also called a health care proxy and gives a designated adult the right to make medical decisions for you if you can no longer make your own. It's best to choose someone who is able to remain calm in emergencies for this position.
Having a living will, which is often referred to as an advanced health care directive, allows you to decide ahead of need what type of end-of-life care you wish to have. Some prefer to be resuscitated by CPR if necessary; others request "Do Not Resuscitate" status. You can also state your preference regarding advanced life support such as being kept alive on a ventilator and being tube-fed.
Your estate planning attorney can prepare all of the documents for you and update them annually, along with a list of your assets.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Four Estate-Planning Documents Everyone Should Have" Tom Lauricella, Apr. 20, 2014