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Advance Healthcare Planning
What is a Living Will?

What is a Living Will?


Jennifer Mcgee


Updated on  

January 3, 2023

7 Mins


Healthcare planning is as important as estate planning. Anything may happen at any time. We all must prepare for any mishap in the future. Creating a single document of Living Will can give you relief from many headaches and complications in the future. 

So, what is a Living Will? 

The Living Will is a legal document that states the Medicare you would like to receive if you’re incapable of expressing your wishes due to illness or injury.

Living Will Definition

Living Will is a legal document that provides instructions and directions on the healthcare treatment you would like to receive when you are debilitated to lose the capacity to convey your wishes and consent to any ailment or disability. Living Will specifies to your doctors, caregivers, family, friends, and loved ones to implement them in adherence to your desires.

Living Will is commonly confused with the Last Will or a species of Last Will, although both are almost different documents. Living Will is a medically related document, whereas a Last Will is relatable to estate distribution and control over it.

It is a document where you can provide your health issues and the preferable medical treatment or end-of-life care you want to receive. Just like Estate planning is important, Advance Healthcare Planning is also crucial.

What is the purpose and importance of the Living Will?

The purpose of a Living Will is simple: it provides you a shield against every unanticipated medical crisis. We do Estate Planning for the benefit of our family, friends, and loved ones and to protect our property, assets, and estate. But Living Will is prepared for the benefit and protection of ourselves. 

The Living Will is not a document to be prepared for the declining years or a person suffering from an incurable malady. A young, healthy, and fit as fiddle person is also advised to prepare a Living Will as life is uncertain, and anything may happen at any time. It can get more difficult if you are a single parent or the sole caregiver to the family. Living Will gives you the power to take control even when you are incapacitated by illness or injury.

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“Should have done this before, had made it up to be really hard in my head. This was super easy!”

Who can make a Living Will?

Anyone can make a Living Will at any point in time, if;

  1. He is an adult i.e., above 18 years of age.
  2. He is a sound-minded person which means that he can understand the consequences of making a Living Will and the laws applied to it.
Living Will

When does a Living Will take effect?

The Living Will comes into effect on the date when you lose your capacity to express or convey your wishes or make decisions about your healthcare treatments, before that a Living Will is just like any other legal document. 

What is important to put in a Living Will?

Before starting to write a Living Will you should be aware of the objectives and why you are making a Living Will and also if you need a Living Will.

Before making a Living Will the foremost step is to know if you have any slightest trace of symptoms of an ailment or if you may catch any deadly disease in the future. If you’re occupied in a profession or involved in any day-to-day activity there’s a high probability of getting injured severely or hit by an irreversible injury.

Your Living Will should include:

  • Your signature, names of witnesses, their signatures, etc. in adherence to your state’s requirements.
  • Your every wishes to receive any treatment and care if he becomes incapacitated.
  • Details of the specific treatments to be operated on or not on your body etc.
  • Details of sources of finances and how much expenses are to be done on your care and treatment.
  • Declaration of donation of the body organ, tissues, or entire body to any person or for scientific research, if you want.
  • Expense in your funeral or place to bury etc.

What healthcare or medical support to include in a Living Will?

The kind of Medical support or procedures you would like to receive should be included in a Living Will in detail. This may cover:

-Medical Treatment and medication

The decision of getting medical treatment or medication is exclusively your choice. You may not wish to be on a particular medication or do not want to go for a particular medical treatment. Living Will can be clear and specific in this regard and your choices.

-Breathing Assistance and Artificial Feeding 

There may come a time when you are not able to breathe or eat anything. In such situations you may need an artificial feeding and breathing support system. A Living Will may declare if you want a stomach tube or an intravenous tube for artificial feeding. Likewise, you may declare if you want to be on a ventilator or how long you would prefer to be on the ventilator.

-Comfort Care

Comfort care is less harsh and moderate compared to any other medical treatment procedure. Comfort care may include keeping you on mild meditation but giving priority to your comfort and well-being.

Posthumous Directives

Posthumous Directives are the instructions concerning the cremation or if you want an autopsy to be performed or anything else you would like to prefer like the place of burial etc.

How can a Living Will be revoked or canceled?

The Living Will can be changed, modified, revoked, or canceled at any time. Although, the state laws may vary from state to state on the revocation of the Living Will.

If the Living Will was made by a minor or an unsound-minded person or if not signed or a witness wasn't present (if a state requires that), or Court finds it fraudulent, a Court would reject or cancel the Living Will on the grounds of validity 

However, getting a divorce does not affect the validity of the Living Will. Unless you have also made a document of Medical/Healthcare Power of Attorney in which you named your spouse as your representative/agent. 

Living Will vs Living Trust

The one similarity between Living Will and Living Trust is that both are legal documents that come into effect in the event of losing the capacity to make decisions of the testator (maker of the document) i.e., on becoming mentally incapacitated. 

Living Will

Living Trust

Living Will states the directives concerning critical treatment or end-of-life care if the testator becomes incapacitated to convey his wishes and consent.

Living Trust appoints a Trustee to take care of the estate of the testator if later becomes incapacitated to make decisions.

Living Will is made for the benefit of the testator to give him a voice.

Living Trust also states the provisions for the beneficiaries.

Living Will is revoked on the death of the testator.

Living Trust is not revoked on the death of the testator; rather it can be used for distribution of the estate in adherence to the testator’s wishes.

To appoint a Representative, a Living Will can subsume another legal document i.e. Medical/Healthcare Power of Attorney.

Living Trust does not need any separate document for that purpose. A trustee is appointed by the Living Trust, itself.

Regarding State specific laws

Every state has different requirements for a valid Living Will. In some states, a witness is required or it should be signed and notarized.  

Likewise, some states consider Living Will and Advance Directive as different and separate documents, whereas others consider both documents the same. In some states, Living Will and Advance Directive are used interchangeably. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does a Living Will need to be notarized?

It depends on the State you belong to, some states have regulations to get it notarised or to be witnessed and signed. Requirements of the States for a Living Will.

What is the difference between the Living Will and a Last Will?

The Living Will is a legal document that dictates the medical or critical care you would like to receive if you become incapacitated in the future due to any reason. Whereas, the Last Will is also a legal document but it provides the instructions relating to distributing the estate of the Will maker amongst his family, friends, loved ones, and also some Charitable Trusts, etc.

How much does a Living Will cost?

Generally, Living Will costs from $100 to $1000 depending on a lawyer. However, you can make an online Living Will at a very affordable cost.

 How to make a Living Will without a lawyer?

It is advisable to consult a lawyer before making a Living Will if you are not clear on the requirements of your state. But if you’re fully informed then the best way to make a Living Will is online. TrulyWill is a platform where you can easily make your Living Will by filling out Will forms designed by attorneys. You can also consult an attorney on the platform if you need one to address your queries.

What is the major drawback of a Living Will?

The only and major drawback of a Living Will is that you cannot anticipate everything, although a Living Will gives protection against many mishappenings. But there are still some chances of being hit by something completely unexpected.
Jennifer Mcgee
Parent to five young children. Expert in Estate Planning, Probate, and Family Law Matters. Volunteer with Victim’s Advocates in the local sheriff's department...
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Jennifer Mcgree
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