A Living Will, or Directive to Physicians, is a legal document that informs emergency responders, physicians, and family members of your wishes in the event you require emergency or end-of-life medical care at a time you are unable to communicate your wishes. Your Living Will is signed by you and notarized while you have full capacity to execute the document. This estate planning tool can be as detailed or simple as you would like, but it often contains at least your preferences for either life-sustaining care or palliative care in the event you have a terminal or irreversible condition.

Commonly, a Living Will can be incorporated into one document that combines both a Medical Power of Attorney and HIPAA release authority. This keeps things simple for families and their estate planning needs. You should give a copy of this document to those people who will authorize your medical care wishes, so they can act in your time of need. Additionally, you can keep a copy of your Living Will on file with your primary care physician and local hospital. Be sure to keep the originals in a safe place that is known to your loved ones.