A living will is a legal document that lets people state their wishes for end-of-life medical care in case they cannot communicate their decisions.
It’s a type of health care directive used to guide healthcare decisions when they can’t speak for themselves due to severe illness or incapacity.
With this form, you can outline what course of action medical workers should take if you fall into a coma or are unresponsive, such as how to prolong your life or manage pain. This document provides peace of mind and clarifies your medical wishes to your family.
In many states, Advance Directives contain a Living Will, a written statement of preferences for medical treatment, and a Medical Power of Attorney, which appoints a trusted individual to make medical decisions on your behalf.
Combining these forms can help ensure medical professionals know how to follow your wishes even if they’re not clearly stated in your Living Will.
Living Will Forms – By State
What Is a Living Will?
A Living Will, or Health Care Directive, is a document that tells doctors what end-of-life care and life-sustaining treatment you do (or do not) want to receive if you cannot communicate your choices. It provides clear instructions for taking care of you during an emergency.
For example, this form lets you explain your wishes regarding life support, organ donation, resuscitation, tube feeding, mechanical ventilation, dialysis, and medical and surgical treatments.
It’s different from a Do Not Resuscitate form, which only authorizes healthcare professionals to withhold life-saving treatment such as CPR.
In addition, it is not the same as a Last Will and Testament, which explains how you want your property and other items to be distributed when you die. A Living Will explains your medical care wishes while you are living.
What is the difference between a Living Will and a Medical Power of Attorney?
A Living Will is a document outlining your desires for end-of-life care by your specifications and terms. On the other hand, a Medical Power of Attorney gives someone you trust the power to make these medical decisions for you should you be unable to do so.
Both documents allow you to define your medical preferences and ensure your healthcare decisions are respected and followed.
Related: What Is a Living Will?
How to Make a Living Will
Follow the steps below to complete your free Living Will using our document builder or downloadable templates.
Step 1. Outline your treatment preferences
First, decide how you want doctors to treat you during a serious medical emergency. Consider whether you would like to be kept alive by life-sustaining treatments or otherwise allow natural death to occur.
On the form, there are three main treatment decisions you’ll need to describe:
- Preference in case of a terminal condition: An injury or illness where death is imminent.
- Preference in case of the persistent vegetative state: A condition where you are unresponsive and unconscious for an extended period of time.
- Preference in case of end-stage condition: An advanced and incurable condition where you will continue to deteriorate until you die.
For each decision, decide whether you want doctors to try and extend your life through any means necessary, and initial your preference on the form.
Even if you decide against life-saving treatment, you can still specify that you want to be given palliative care, which includes treatments to ease your pain, keep you comfortable, and allow a peaceful death. 
Step 2. Establish non-medical arrangements
You can use a Living Will to make religious or spiritual end-of-life arrangements, such as last rites or other religious funeral customs.
You can also specify whether you want to donate your body, organs, and/or tissues for transplantation or medical research. Before donation, your body will be temporarily on life-sustaining treatment until organs can be removed.
Step 3. Include guidelines for MPOA agents (optional)
Sometimes, you can let your healthcare agent or representative (if you’ve assigned one in a Medical Power of Attorney) use this document as a suggested guideline or a strict set of instructions.
Initial next to your preference and state that your agent must either:
- explicitly follow your wishes as outlined in the Living Will, or
- be allowed to act independently and in a way they believe would be in your best interest.
Step 4. Get witness and notary signatures
After deciding on your treatment and end-of-life preferences, you must sign and notarize your Living Will.
Execution requirements vary depending on the state where you’re drafting your form. Most states allow you to choose between using either a witness or notary signature to authenticate your Living Will.
The following people may NOT act as a witness:
- A relative by blood or marriage
- An individual named in your last will and testament
- An individual who may inherit part of your estate
A qualified notary public may be found at your local bank, library, or county clerk’s office.
Be sure to check the signing requirements in your state. 
Living Will Sample
Use the following blank Living Will sample to help you write your own. Download the blank template in PDF or Word format and complete it independently.
Frequently Asked Questions
We analyzed all the information and all the queries out there regarding the creation of a Living Will. Here is a list of answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding this type of document.
A Living Will explains your wishes regarding procedures, medications, or life-prolonging measures in case a situation arises in which you are unable to explain these wishes yourself.
The difference between a Living Will and an Advance Directive (or health care directive) can vary from state to state.
In some states, an advance directive has the same functionality. In states where they’re separate forms, an Advance Directive encompasses a broader variety of things. For instance, an Advance Directive could include both a Living Will (a type of advance directive ) and a directive concerning organ donation.
Yes, you can write a Living Will without a lawyer. Our online form builder is easy to complete and print without hiring an expensive lawyer.
You can’t predict when incapacitating illness or injury might occur.
Without a living will, your family members or healthcare providers may not know your medical preferences regarding life-sustaining and end-of-life care.
While commonly associated with older adults, all Americans over 18 should consider having a living will.
In particular, you should create one if:
- Traveling abroad for an extended period
- Undergoing a planned surgery
- You’ve been diagnosed with a terminal or chronic condition or illness
- You’re engaged in a high-risk profession (i.e., firefighter or police)
- Your religious beliefs prohibit specific life-sustaining procedures
A standard Living Will includes these elements:
- Declarant: an adult of sound mind who expresses their end-of-life wishes
- Artificially Provided Nourishment and Fluids: preferences for feeding and hydration via a tube
- Witnesses: depending on the state, you may need two non-relatives to act as witnesses
- Notary Public: an alternative or additional witness to certify the validity of your signature
- Signatures: the declarant, witnesses, and notary public must all sign the form
Now that your living will form is complete, it’s essential to circulate copies to the necessary parties.
Deliver a copy of your form to the following people:
- Your primary care physician
- Your local hospital
- Any agents or healthcare powers of attorney
- Your health insurance company (if required)
- Your chosen family members and friends
These individuals and institutions can help file your document with your medical records and other estate-planning documents.
If you choose to have your living will be drafted by a lawyer, the cost will vary between $200 – $500, with additional notary fees.
If that cost is out of your price range, creating a free, do-it-yourself living will online is simple.
You can store your Living Will in a safe deposit box, locked filing cabinet, or home. For good measure, you can also send a copy of your living will to the following:
- your doctor to be stored with the rest of your medical records
- your hospital file if you have any procedures scheduled, just in case things do not go as planned
- your health care agent or attorney so that they can share it with your family if needed