What is a living will?

If you are young and healthy, the thought of estate planning may be something far from your mind. However, serious injuries or illnesses may strike at any moment and life-saving decisions may have to be made. Without an estate plan in place that includes advance care directives, such as a living will, your loved ones may be left to make choices on your behalf without knowing your wishes. 

According to, a living will is a legally binding, written document that spells out your preferences regarding end-of-life medical care. Through a living will, you may provide direction for the life-prolonging procedures you would want and would not want if you cannot speak or make choices for yourself. You may also dictate the circumstances in which you would or would not want such treatments. For example, if there is a possibility that you may eventually recover, you may be amenable to the use of CPR or a defibrillator. If you are not likely to survive, however, you may prefer such methods not be used on you. 

Living wills can also be used to indicate your palliative care preferences. For example, you may not want to undergo invasive testing in a medical facility at the end of your life. Rather, you may wish to pass away in your home where you are comfortable and with your loved ones. 

If you have spiritual or religious considerations that may affect your medical treatment and end-of-life care, you may also specify those in your living will. This may include allowing or not allowing certain procedures and the performing of last rights or other religious ceremonies or prayers. 

You may also use a living will to indicate any anatomical gift decisions, such as desiring to donate your organs or tissues upon your passing.