Tips for Creating a Living Will

Before writing your living will, you might want to:

  • Consider who you want to appoint as medical power of attorney. Ideally, this should be a trusted friend, relative, or attorney who is familiar with your values and will respect your health care decisions.
  • Clearly communicate your preferences. You could detail whether you want to be resuscitated in the event you suffer critical injuries and are unlikely to survive. You may also state which pain medications you should be given, even if those medications could cause you to lose consciousness or shorten your lifespan.
  • Exempt your health care providers from liability. Doctors are sometimes reluctant to honor living wills because they fear they could be sued for medical malpractice or wrongful death. You might include a “liability shield” releasing health care professionals from any damages you may suffer as a result of respecting your wishes.
  • Sign a HIPAAA authorization. Medical professionals are legally prohibited from sharing an adult’s medical records outside of certain, limited circumstances. If you are granting someone the medical power of attorney, a HIPAA authorization will provide them the legal authority to access your medical records and discuss your case details with a doctor.
  • Review your estate plan. A living will should be one component of a more comprehensive estate plan. Since a living will does not affect how your assets may be preserved, protected, or distributed after your death, it will not spare your loved ones the pain of California probate, wealth taxes, or any potential challenges to your estate.
  • Speak to an attorney. A living will empowers you to decide how you’ll be treated if you are ever in a position where you cannot clearly communicate your values and preferences. However, living wills must be carefully prepared to ensure they are legal and valid. 


Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.