Skip to Content
Grandparents with grandchildren symbolizing how planning your wills and estate can benefit the next generation.
Wills and estate planning

How to create a living will

You can create a living will yourself with the proper form or you can use an estate planning attorney.

A living will, also known as an advance medical directive, is a document that allows you to make decisions about your medical care and treatment in the event you become severely ill and are being kept alive by life support systems. It can bring peace of mind to you and to your family because it explains in advance what kind of medical care you want to receive when you cannot speak for yourself.

Making your living will

Most people look to an estate planning attorney to create their living wills. This is often the preferable way to go, primarily because estate planning attorneys understand the specific laws in your state. They can also help answer questions you may have and represent you in the event of a contested will.

If you want to know how to create a living will and decide to prepare your own, you will want to be sure you are following your state's requirement and using the proper forms. Living will forms can be found at:

  • local hospitals
  • senior centers and care centers
  • your state's medical association
  • The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

You can also make a living will and health care power of attorney using one of the many online legal websites or with a variety of software programs. These types of programs can easily guide you on how to construct a living will, making it easy to create a living will on your own. Just remember that your document, when completed, will need to be signed, witnessed, and maybe even notarized in order to be legally enforceable.

What to put in your living will

A living will leaves written instructions as to how you want certain types of care to be given or even not to be given. For example, many people include a do not resuscitate or DNR order in their living wills because they don't wish to be kept alive on a ventilator. Note that your state specific form will request your feelings about various types of care that may be difficult to think about or even consider. They may include having you make decisions about:

  • Providing food and water intravenously if you are unconscious
  • Life-prolonging medical care such as transfusions, CPR, dialyses, use of a respirator, and even life prolonging surgeries
  • Palliative care (reducing pain without curing) if you choose to forego life-prolonging treatments

For more information on estate plans and wills, visit the Protective Learning Center.



Arrows linking indicating relationship

Related Articles

A man and woman walk their bikes through a meadow while walking their dog

Special needs trusts and estates

Learn more
A man and a woman review and sign documents together

Living trust steps to avoid

Learn more
Young male financial professional sitting with a senior couple.

Estate planning basics: Planning ahead for long-term needs

Learn more

All Learning Center articles are general summaries that can be used when considering your financial future at various life stages. The information presented is for educational purposes and is meant to supplement other information specific to your situation. It is not intended as investment advice and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Protective Life or its subsidiaries.

Learning Center articles may describe services and financial products not offered by Protective Life or its subsidiaries. Descriptions of financial products contained in Learning Center articles are not intended to represent those offered by Protective Life or its subsidiaries.

Neither Protective Life nor its representatives offer legal or tax advice. We encourage you to consult with your financial adviser and legal or tax adviser regarding your individual situations before making investment, social security, retirement planning, and tax-related decisions. For information about Protective Life and its products and services, visit

Companies and organizations linked from Learning Center articles have no affiliation with Protective Life or its subsidiaries.