A living will, also known as a health-care directive, covers the wishes of an individual in regards to medical decisions, should that person become incapacitated, the American Bar Association advises. A living will can help determine whether the writer wishes to receive life-prolonging care or choose his preferred level of pain relief.
A living will designates a representative who is authorized to make the outlined medical decisions for the writer in the event the writer is no longer capable, explains the American Bar Association. A living will also covers decisions such as whether the writer wants to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation or to donate tissue and organs upon his death.
When writing a living will, the writer must define when the representative's ability to act on his behalf takes effect, and at least one person must sign the document. Each state has its own legal requirements for notarizing or witnessing. Because it is impossible to cover all medical situations in a living will, it is suggested that the writer's wishes be discussed with his physician as well as the appointed agent. The writer should also review his living will from time to time to ensure it reflects his intentions, the American Bar Association advises.