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By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

For over 20 years my Idaho estate planning clients come to me with questions and concerns they have about completing their own estate planning. My goal is to answer their questions and assist them in making meaningful decisions that they feel will provide the protections they need during their lifetime and will assist in distributing their money, property, and assets to their loved ones after they have passed away.

In providing protection for my clients while they are alive, a basic part of our estate planning documents always includes a living will. A living will is the document that a client can use to provide specific instructions to their doctors, and other healthcare providers, in the event they are in a terminal condition, they are being kept alive by life support, and they cannot communicate with their doctors. If these circumstances exist, a living will provides our clients with the ability to give specific instructions about what they do want and what they do not want as part of their medical treatment.

Part of the living will include a provision having to do with a P.O.S.T. document. The purpose of this blog is to simply describe what a P.O.S.T. document is and how it may be included as part of your estate planning.

  1. What is a P.O.S.T. Document?

P.O.S.T. is an abbreviation that stands for a Physician’s Order for Scope of Treatment document. This type of document is created whenever a person has a terminal disease or illness, but their death is not imminent. In other words, as an example, cancer is a common situation where a P.O.S.T. document may be created or used. The cancer is not the only situation. There could be other illnesses or injuries that a doctor has diagnosed which will eventually lead to the death of the person, but the person’s death may be weeks or years in the future.

Once a doctor has diagnosed a patient with a terminal illness or injury, they usually have a conversation with them about creating and using a P.O.S.T. document.

  1. What Does a P.O.S.T. Document Accomplish

The purpose of a P.O.S.T. document is to give the physician and the patient the opportunity to determine what scope of treatment they would like to give and receive throughout the patient’s illness or injury. Usually this document will spell out with some specificity the treatment that will be received by the patient as the illness or injury progresses.

Specifically, the P.O.S.T. document will provide instructions to emergency medical personnel and other doctors and healthcare providers about whether they should or should not administer CPR in the event of a medical emergency. In addition to providing specific instructions about whether or not CPR is to be administered, a P.O.S.T. document can also provide information about your wishes for other end-of-life health care treatments.

  1. How Does a P.O.S.T. Document Work with a Living Will

The purpose of a living will is similar. However, the difference between a P.O.S.T. document and a living will is that a post document is only created when you already have a terminal injury or illness diagnosed by a doctor. Alternatively, a living will is used anytime for any reason you have an injury or illness that is terminal that has put you on life support and you cannot communicate with your doctors.

Most living wills have an option allowing you to incorporate your P.O.S.T. document as part of your living will. If you have a P.O.S.T. document, you simply need to mark the option on your living will that incorporates your P.O.S.T. document as part of your treatment plan. If you do this, your medical and health care providers will review the P.O.S.T. document you have in your medical records as well as your living will and the instructions you have left. In this way, you will know that all of your wishes about your own medical and health care treatment will be followed.

We have helped numerous clients in creating and customizing their own estate plans including living wills and incorporating any existing P.O.S.T. document. If you have questions about a P.O.S.T. document or a living will we can help you.


When it comes to estate planning or probate you should never try to do it alone. If you have questions for yourself or for your family and loved ones, we can help.  Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free 3o minute consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at We are happy to answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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