Living Will

Clients Rate Lawyers on our Platform 4.9/5 Stars
based on 2,009 reviews

Jump to Section

Need help with a Living Will?

Post Project Now

Post Your Project (It's Free)

Get Bids to Compare

 Hire Your Lawyer

What Is a Living Will?

A living will, sometimes called an advance directive or an advance health care directive, is a legal, written document that contains your preference for medical care if you cannot make decisions for yourself. A living will should guide the choices your caregivers and doctors make in the following circumstances:

  • You're terminally ill
  • You're seriously injured
  • You're in a coma
  • You're in the late stages of dementia

Your living will should describe the medical treatments you do and do not wish to be used to keep you alive. You can also include preferences for other medical decisions, such as pain management.

Why Is a Living Will Important?

When you prepare a living will, you can ensure that you receive the medical care you want. A living will also helps to:

  • Relieve caregivers of the burden of making a difficult decision in a moment of grief or crisis.
  • Reduce disagreement or confusion among family members and caregivers about the choices you would want to make.

Who Should Have a Living Will?

Although you may associate living wills with older adults, living will documents are useful regardless of your age. Unexpected situations, such as a car accident or illness, can happen at any stage of life.

Typically, any adult who is of sound mind and at least 18 years old can create a living will. Sound mind is generally defined as having the ability to understand what the document is and what it contains.

When Does a Living Will Go Into Effect?

A living will can only take effect if you are both alive and unable to communicate.

Your living will can take effect once medical professionals determine that you are in a severe medical condition, as defined by the laws in your state, and unable to communicate your wishes.

A doctor can generally determine:

  • Whether you have lost your ability to make decisions or understand treatment options
  • Whether you can communicate your wishes in any way

If you name someone who will be in charge of medical decisions that are not related to life support, your living will would go into effect when you can no longer make your own decisions.

How Is a Living Will Different From a Traditional Will?

A will, also known as a last will and testament, differs from a living will.

Your last will and testament lets people know what you want to happen after your death. Details included in this document include how you want others to handle your property and other assets and family responsibilities, such as naming legal guardians for your children.

Your living will, however, lets people know what you want to happen in certain cases while you are still alive but unable to express your wishes for medical care while in a terminal or unconscious state.

Is a Living Will the Same as an Advance Directive?

Generally speaking, a living will is one document, while advance directives can include several documents. A living will can be called different terms in different states. In some cases, the term living will is used with advance directive interchangeably. Make sure you know how your state refers to these documents legally when you need to draft your living will.

Other terms used include the following:

  • Advance health care directive
  • Directive to physicians
  • Declaration regarding life-prolonging procedures

Complete advance directives may include several documents:

  • The living will itself
  • A do not resuscitate, or DNR, order
  • Instructions for organ or tissue donations
  • Specific instructions regarding a previously diagnosed illness
  • Medical power of attorney

Is a Living Will the Same as a DNR?

Although a living will includes whether you want to be resuscitated in certain situations, it is not the same as a do not resuscitate order. A DNR is a separate document, and it has specific requirements to be valid. A DNR must be prepared in consultation with and signed by your doctor.

A DNR is a legally binding order from a physician stating that no steps will be taken to restore breathing or restart your heart if you experience respiratory or cardiac arrest. Some people choose to create a DNR because steps to restore breathing or restart a heart often involve CPR, which comes with increased risks for ill or older adult patients.

A DNI (do not intubate) is similar to a DNR, but this document covers matters related to intubation.

Image via Flickr by hang_in_there

Questions To Consider When Writing a Living Will

Some questions you will want to think about when writing a living will include the following:

  • Do you want or not want certain interventions related to breathing and feeding?
  • Do you want to receive or exclude certain pain management medications or procedures?
  • Do you want a DNI or DNR order?
  • Do you want treatment to extend your life in all situations, or would you refuse treatment in certain situations?
  • Would you want to receive treatment only if a cure is possible?
  • If you have a special medical condition, what related procedures should be carried out?

Medical Decisions To Address in a Living Will

A living will should address a variety of potential end-of-life care decisions.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, is used to restart a heart that has stopped beating. Your living will should cover if and when you want to be resuscitated by CPR or an electric shock to stimulate your heart.

Mechanical Ventilation

If you're unable to breathe on your own, mechanical ventilation can take over your breathing. You should determine the following:

  • Whether you would want to be placed on a mechanical ventilator
  • When you would want to be placed on a mechanical ventilator
  • How long you would want to be on a mechanical ventilator

Tube Feeding

If you cannot feed yourself, you can receive nutrients and fluids via a tube in your stomach or intravenously. Again, you should determine the following:

  • Whether you want to be fed in this way
  • When you would want to be fed in this way
  • How long you would want to be fed in this way

Dialysis

This process manages fluid levels and removes waste from your blood if your kidneys no longer function. You should decide the following:

  • Whether you want to receive dialysis treatment
  • When you want to receive this treatment
  • How long you would want to receive this treatment

Antibiotics and Antiviral Medications

Various medications exist to treat infections. If you are near the end of your life, do you want infections treated aggressively with medications, or would you prefer to allow an infection to run its course?

Palliative Care

Also known as comfort care, these interventions can keep you comfortable and manage your pain while still following your other wishes for treatment. Palliative care can include the following:

  • Receiving pain medications
  • Avoiding invasive treatments and tests
  • Being allowed to die at home

Organ, Tissue, and Body Donations

You can specify wishes for organ and tissue donation in a living will. You will be temporarily kept on life-sustaining treatment until the procedure to remove organs for donation is complete. Stating that you understand the need for this temporary intervention in your living will can help medical professionals avoid confusion about your wishes.

You can also donate your body for scientific study and state this donation in your living will. You should contact a university, medical school, or donation program for information about how to register.

Preparing a living will involves thinking about difficult decisions. Instead of dealing with these matters on your own, contact an experienced lawyer who can help you make sure your wishes are clear.

How ContractsCounsel Works
Hiring a lawyer on ContractsCounsel is easy, transparent and affordable.
1. Post a Free Project
Complete our 4-step process to provide info on what you need done.
2. Get Bids to Review
Receive flat-fee bids from lawyers in our marketplace to compare.
3. Start Your Project
Securely pay to start working with the lawyer you select.

Meet some of our Living Will Lawyers

View Antoine
Member Since:
February 7, 2022

Antoine D.

Owner
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Fort Lauderdale
6 Yrs Experience
Licensed in FL
Howard University School of Law

In his firm, Talented Tenth Law, Antoine focuses on helping people maximize their protection and prosperity in the courtroom and the boardroom. His firm’s services include representing people in lawsuits involving breach of contract, many types of civil lawsuits and helping business owners win government contracts among other things.

View Tom
Member Since:
February 7, 2022

Tom L.

Managing Member
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Houston
15 Yrs Experience
Licensed in TX
Louisiana State University Law Center

Tom is a former chief legal officer of public and private companies. He has extensive experience in mergers & acquisitions, commercial transactions, joint ventures, finance, securities laws and general corporate law across a broad range of industries, including construction, consumer products, e-commerce, energy and healthcare. As an attorney who practiced at two different Top 50 international law firms, he can deliver "Big Law" service at a competitive price. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Tom served as an officer in the U.S. Army and attained the rank of Captain. He served a tour in Iraq where he led a reconnaissance platoon and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.

View Craig
Member Since:
February 8, 2022

Craig Y.

Partner
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
New York
26 Yrs Experience
Licensed in NY
New England Law - Boston

Craig E. Yaris is a partner at Parlatore Law Group, with the experience and drive to handle all your Franchise, General Business Practice, and Mediation needs. As a former small business owner and Chief Operating Officer of a franchisor himself, Mr. Yaris is passionate about promoting business growth. He has experience handling daily operations, employee disputes, and negotiations of pertinent contracts for a franchise company with 100 locations in five states, where he organized and conducted semi- annual meetings to educate and inform franchisees of best practices for improved growth. In addition, Mr. Yaris was responsible for the preparation and filing of the UFOC (Uniform Franchise Offering Circular) in several states and is well-versed in business formation. Between his time as Franchisor and Conflict Resolution Specialist, Mr. Yaris was the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of an online company whose goal was to help inform marketers and business owners of the fast-paced and ongoing changes within their specific verticals. This experience helped him hone his research and writing skills and prepared him for the cloud-based aspects of Parlatore Law Group. Mr. Yaris also has extensive experience in public speaking, as he has planned and delivered several keynote addresses and educational seminars for many New York-based organizations, and as a Continuing Education Instructor for Hofstra University. Prior to joining Parlatore Law Group, Mr. Yaris worked as a Patient Advocate, and more recently, a Conflict Resolution Specialist, where he mediated and resolved disputes on behalf of patients with insurance companies. In this role, he negotiated for coverage of previously denied medications and medical procedures as well as successfully mediated disputes between individuals and business partners which would have otherwise resulted in protracted litigation. In addition, he has experience mediating employer and employee disputes as well as helping resolve family conflict. He has also studied and attended many Non-Violent Communication (NVC) workshops and strives to bring these tools and methods to all of his mediations. His variety of experiences speak to his ability to handle small business needs at all stages of business growth and development. Mr. Yaris also has experience with business growth and development, as he has worked with several small business on creating and implementing strategies for steady growth. In addition, to spending time with family, Mr. Yaris volunteers his time helping spread the message of the ACLU and he supports many local charities focused on families and children. He is admitted to practice in New York.

View Amy
Member Since:
February 9, 2022

Amy P.

Principal Attorney
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Edmonds, WA
18 Yrs Experience
Licensed in WA
The University of Montana School of Law

Amy has served as outside general counsel and litigator to established businesses throughout western Washington since 2010. Her passion and focus is providing the best possible representation for clients in the construction, transportation and hospitality industries.

View Jacob
Member Since:
February 14, 2022

Jacob O.

Contracts Manager
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Iowa City
2 Yrs Experience
Licensed in MO
University of Iowa - Law

I am bar certified in the lovely state of Missouri. I received my J.D. from The University of Iowa College of Law (2019) and my B.A. in Political Science from BYU-Idaho (2015).

View Nicholas
Member Since:
February 28, 2022

Nicholas V.

Attorney
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Denver, CO
4 Yrs Experience
Licensed in CO, NY, TX
Texas A&M University School of Law

I am a solo practitioner with offices in Denver, Colorado and Austin, Texas with a focus on general business and real estate contracts.

View Kelvin
Member Since:
February 25, 2022

Kelvin R.

Attorney
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Dallas, TX
25 Yrs Experience
Licensed in TX
Tulane Law School

Experienced business and contract lawyer. Our firm specializes in commercial litigation and dispute resolution.

Find the best lawyer for your project

Browse Lawyers Now

Want to speak to someone?

Get in touch below and we will schedule a time to connect!

Request a call