DocumentsEstate PlanningEstatesLegalWhat is a Living Will?

April 7, 2020Obitia

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A living will (also known as a “healthcare proxy” or “advanced directive”) is a legal document used to inform medical workers and doctors of your medical and health care decisions and preferred medical procedures and treatments during end-of-life conditions and life-threatening conditions. This document has no effect after your death.


Purpose of a Living Will

The purpose of a living will is to outline in straightforward language what healthcare decisions you would make in the situation in which you are unable to communicate or make those decisions.

Living Will Outline and Sections

A living will most often have the following section covering the following situations and decisions. Usually, you will agree to what amount of comfort you would like, how vigorously medical care should be used to extend your life, and whether life-sustaining treatments and life support, such as tube feeding should be implemented.

  1. What to do if death from a terminal condition (terminally ill) is imminent.
  2. What to do if you are in a persistent vegetative state.
  3. What to do if you are in an end-state condition.

A living will also outline the freedom of your healthcare proxy to adhere to your instructions. In effect, you will choose between using a “flexible” interpretation or that your preferences should be followed “exactly” as written.

Remember, your living will and estate documents are only useful if your loved ones and family members can find them. It is important to make sure your family, lawyer, and doctor are all made aware of your estate plans (including your living will) and where to find a copy if need be.


Anatomical Donations

Most individuals will incorporate any wishes they have for anatomical donations when creating a living will. This can be as simple as being an organ donor or specifying what organs and tissue you wish to donate and the purpose for which it can be used, such as transplantation, therapy, research, medical education.

To learn more about organ donation read “Anatomical Donations Explained


Do You Need an Attorney to Draft a Living Will?


While you should always consult an attorney or contact a law firm, especially an estate planning attorney when putting together your estate plan, a living will is generally a form and simple enough that it can be filled out without an attorney. However, we recommend you get your form from a reputable source (read below) because state-by-state requirements, especially signing and execution requirements can be different and are not always common sense. Our partners have state-specific estate planning forms and very precise signing directions for each state, so you know that your living will well be filled out correctly and executed correctly.


Where Can I Find an Example or Template Living Will? is the best place to get a living will form.

We work with eForms because they offer free forms (you pay for assistance filling it out) and they have specific signing instructions as well as general guidance so that there is no guesswork and you can have a living will ready to be executed within twenty minutes.

Go to Living Wills on eForms >


Signing and Execution Requirements

You will need to execute (sign) the living will once you have filled it out. Execution of estate documents is controlled by state law, so you will need to execute your living will according to the requirements of the state you reside in. For more information about state-specific requirements go to Step 4 on “How to Make a Living Will” on eForms Living Will page.


What other documents should I have?

A living will is a standard estate planning document. Your estate plan should at least have a last will and testament, a living will, a power of attorney, a HIPPA authorization form, and designation of a healthcare surrogate (health care proxy or “health care agent”).

The above documents may have different names in different states, but they generally cover the end of life medical and healthcare decisions, who is responsible for you and your things if you are incapacitated (this is especially true if you have young children), and finally your will to clearly state how you would like your property handled after your death, as well as any funeral instructions if that is important to you.

Draft a Last Will and Testament >

Draft a Living Will >

Draft a Power of Attorney (POA) >



A living will is an important part of any estate plan, and because it is generally a simple form that can be filled out with minimal planning there is no excuse why everyone shouldn’t have one in place. If you are considering creating a living will also consider drafting the other documents necessary as they will all work in concert to make sure your family and loved ones have a clear understanding of your wishes and goals.


The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal, accounting or tax advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.




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