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Living Wills: Peace of Mind for a Peaceful Transition

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

Many potential clients come into an estate planning consultation knowing some legal terms, but not fully understanding what they mean. One of the most commonly misunderstood options is the living will.


A living will is a legal document that expresses your wishes for end-of-life medical care if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. These take effect when your physicians have determined that death is imminent. It can be used to specify whether you want or do not want life-sustaining treatment, such as artificial respiration or feeding tubes. It can also be used to designate a person to make medical decisions on your behalf.


Here are some reasons why you might want to create a living will:

  • To make sure that your wishes are carried out if you are unable to communicate them. The default setting for most hospitals and caregivers is to extend life for as long as possible, even if the end is imminent. A living will tells your care team that you do not want this artificial extension of life, giving them permission to let you go.

  • To avoid putting your loved ones in the difficult position of having to make medical decisions on your behalf. Your DPOA for Medical Decisions can make many of your end of life decisions, such as declining life-saving measures, signing off on a DNR, or authorizing palliative medicines. But, do you want them to bear the weight of making these decisions? Loved ones in grief will often struggle with following your wishes when the time comes. Why ask them to make the decision, if you can make it yourself?

  • To give your loved ones peace of mind knowing that you have made your wishes known. Sometimes it is a relief for loved ones to know--particularly for the DPOA--that you have authorized the discontinuation of life-saving measures. This can help to avoid conflict between loved ones who may not agree on a course of action.

If you are interested in creating a living will, there are a few things you can do:

  1. Talk to your doctor about your options. Have them explain what "end-of-life" means.

  2. Find a lawyer like me who can help you create a living will. You can choose to use a statutory form, or even put special instructions for religious or family observances, where possible.

  3. Make sure that your living will is signed and witnessed by two people, or signed in front of a notary.

  4. Keep your living will in a safe place where your loved ones can find it, and make sure your DPOA has a copy.

  5. Upload your living will in your PCP's/hospital's portal to be made part of your medical chart's documents.

It is important to note that a living will is not a substitute for medical care. If you become seriously ill or injured, you will still need to receive medical care. However, a living will can help to ensure that your wishes are carried out if you are unable to communicate them.

Here are some common questions about living wills:

  • What is a living will? A living will is a legal document that expresses your wishes for end-of-life medical care if you are unable to make decisions for yourself.

  • Why do I need a living will? You need a living will to make sure that your final wishes are carried out if you are unable to communicate them. This will prevent a caregiver from artificially extending your life when death is imminent.

  • Who can help me create a living will? A lawyer can help you create a living will.

  • What should I include in my living will? Your living will should include your wishes for medical care when death is imminent.

  • Where should I keep my living will? You should keep your living will in a safe place where your loved ones can find it, and you should give a copy to anyone who has your durable power of attorney for medical care. You should also make sure a copy is in your medical chart.

  • What happens if I don't have a living will? If you don't have a living will, a hospital may artificially extend your life creating high medical bills. The courts may decide what happens to you if there is a disagreement between your caregiver and loved ones.

  • How can I change my living will? You can change your living will at any time. You can revoke your living will as long as you are physically and mentally able to do so.

  • Can my DPOA override my living will? No, your DPOA specifically does not have the power to revoke your living will. Your wishes, as long as you have validly executed a living will, must be followed unless a court says otherwise.

A living will is an important document that can help to ensure that your final wishes are carried out if you are unable to communicate them. If you are interested in creating a living will, you should talk to your doctor about your options and find a lawyer like me who can help you.


This blog post was created with the assistance of Bard, an AI option from Google.

A person being pushed down a hallway in a hospital bed by a medical team

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