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Sunday May 19, 2019

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

How to Make a Living Will

What is the best way to go about drafting a living will? I recently retired and would like to start getting my affairs in order.

Preparing a living will is a smart decision that enables you to direct what type of care and treatment you want to receive at the end of your life. Here is what you should know, along with some helpful resources.

Advance Directive

To adequately spell out your wishes regarding your end-of-life medical treatment, you need two legal documents: a "living will," which tells your doctor what kind of care you want to receive if you become incapacitated, and a "health care power of attorney" (or health care proxy), which authorizes a designated person to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.

These two documents are known as an "advance directive," and will only be utilized if you are too ill to make medical decisions yourself. You can also change or update it whenever you please.


It isn't necessary to hire a lawyer to complete an advance directive. There are free or low-cost resources available to help you write your advance directive, and it takes only a few minutes from start to finish.

One option that is completely free to use is Caring Connections, a resource created by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. They offer free downloads of state-specific advance directive forms with instructions on their website. You can also call 800-658-8898 and request copies of these forms. They will mail them to you and answer any questions you may have.

Want Legal Help

If you would rather work with a lawyer, look for one who specializes in estate planning and health care related matters. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils websites have directories to help you find an attorney. Costs will vary depending your state of residence, but you can expect to pay between $200 and $500 to get one made.

Do Not Resuscitate

You should also consider whether you want to include a do-not-resuscitate order (DNR) as part of your advance directive. Doctors and hospitals in every state accept them. To create a DNR, ask your doctor to help you fill out a state appropriate form.

Another tool you should know about is the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST). Currently endorsed in 22 states with 24 more in some phase of development, a POLST form is for those who are approaching the end of life or suffering from a serious illness. The form compliments an advanced directive and lays out instructions for end-of-life medical wishes and orders. To learn more or set one up, visit the National POLST Paradigm website.

Tell Your Family

To insure your final wishes are followed, be sure to tell your family members, health care proxy and doctor so they all know what you want. You should also provide copies of your advance directive to everyone involved.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published June 8, 2018
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