Living wills, advanced directives and health care powers of attorney are all estate-planning documents that allow people to control their end-of-life treatment and who will be able to make medical decisions for them. When people near death, they may be unable to tell their medical team what kinds of care that they would like to receive. End-of-life care is a highly personal decision, and if a person is incapacitated and has left no instructions, the decisions will be made for him or her. By having a living will in place, people can control the types of treatment that they will receive, taking the decisions out of the hands of others.

When A Living Will Is Needed

Living wills are used when people have terminal conditions. These documents let terminally ill people specify the types of treatment that they are willing to receive to delay death. People can specify that they do not wish to receive any death-delaying treatment. Living will lawyers may help with drafting the document as one part of a person’s overall estate plan.

Living Will Lawyers Explain Terminal Conditions

Not every potentially fatal condition is considered to be a terminal one. Under the law, a terminal condition is one that cannot be reversed and for which treatment only serves to delay a person’s death.


A living will must be witnessed by two individuals. A person is not allowed to have a member of his or her treating medical staff to serve as a witness. If a person has a living will and is able to do so, he or she must tell his or her health care professionals. If the person cannot tell the doctors and nurses, someone who has been granted a health care power of attorney can tell the doctor that there is a living will.

Other Documents

If people do not have terminal conditions but want to make certain that their health care wishes will be followed in the event of a catastrophic personal injury or illness, they can draft health care powers of attorney. These outline the care that a person would like to receive if different scenarios happen. This document also designates a person to make medical decisions. Do-not-resuscitate orders may also be drafted.

Living wills and other advanced directives are important estate-planning documents for most people. People who want to make decisions about their own end-of-life care may keep control by drafting a living will.