How To Write a Living Will

Writing a living will is not something that most people look forward to doing, but it is something that can spare your relatives a lot of heartbreak in the future. An advance medical directive, also known as a living will or a physician's directive, makes your wishes for treatment known to those around you, so that they don't wrestle with a decision for your care if you become unable to do so.

  1. Decide what treatment you will want if you are unable to live on your own because of advanced disease or injury. A living will usually becomes instrumental in the event of a vegetative state or severe brain damage. Your decision may include a "do not resuscitate" order, or it may be that you want all possible medical treatment to prolong your life. You may also have certain religious beliefs that will influence this decision.

  • Find out what forms you are required to have in your state to write a legally binding living will. Each state will have forms available through the courthouse, hospitals, or the health department. There are also several websites that can order the forms for you.
  • Once you have the forms, be as detailed as possible in describing the treatment options you prefer. If you are unsure as to what possible scenarios to cover, consulting a doctor or lawyer can help. You might also cover whether you want your organs donated. Some forms may require that you assign one family member to make sure that your wishes are respected. If this is required in your state, choose the person that you trust the most to make sure your directive will is upheld.
  • Be sure to sign the forms in all of the necessary places. Missing one signature can make legal forms invalid. You typically have to sign in front of witnesses or a notary. Each state has different laws specifying the number of witnesses that must be present and sometimes other criteria for those witnesses. Most states require that the witnesses be legal adults.
  • Discuss the living will with family members and friends. Be sure they know where copies of the forms are located, in case of an emergency. Your doctor will probably also want a copy.
    A living will is not the same document as a regular will. A living will does not follow the same rules or laws and cannot be lumped in with a will that you already have.


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