Terms of Use 

A living will is really not a will at all because it doesn't provide for the disbursement of property. Instead, it is a set of instructions documenting a person’s wishes about medical care for use at the time when you are unable to communicate or make decisions.

Everyone has the right to accept or refuse medical care. A living will protects your rights and removes the burden of making decisions from family, friends, and physicians. Living wills define your desire to either have (or not have) exceptional measures taken to keep you alive and are very important to ensure that your wishes are carried out.

A living will may also be called a healthcare directive, advance directive or directive to physicians.  The exact form for creating a Living Will varies from state to state, and while it's likely that a Living Will executed in one state would be honored in another, most experts recommend that you execute a new Living Will if you move permanently from one state to another.  
Your living will must be signed by you in the presence of two or more witnesses, none of whom should be a health care provider or a person who would stand to receive a share of your property in the event of your death, such as your spouse, a child, or someone you named as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy.   

When drafting your living will, consider these types of care: the use of life-sustaining equipment (ventilators and respirators), "do not resuscitate" DNR orders (instructions about the use of CPR), artificial hydration and nutrition (tube feeding), comfort care, as well as organ and tissue donation.

Once a living will has been drawn up, you need to talk about your decisions with your loved ones. Make copies of the document and give copies to your doctor, attorney, hospital and next of kin.

Your living will becomes effective when three things happen:

  1. You are diagnosed to be close to death from a terminal condition or to be permanently comatose

  2. You cannot communicate your own wishes for your medical care -- orally, in writing or through gestures, and

  3. The medical personnel attending you are notified of the written directions defined in your living will for your medical care.

You can create a living will with help from an attorney or by using self-help software, the Internet or books.