How to Write a Living Will

You've chosen how to live; you can also make choices about dying. An advance medical directive, or living will, spells out your preferences regarding the use of medical treatment to delay an inevitable death. It also spares your family the anguish of making a heartwrenching decision as well as guarantees that your wishes are followed should you be unable to communicate them.

Discuss your beliefs and wishes with your partner or spouse, family members, friends, clergy and your doctor.

Obtain your state's living will form from your state health department, local hospital, doctor, or the local area agency on aging. You may also find forms on the Internet (at no cost), or you can work with a lawyer.

Review the forms carefully. You may need the advice of your doctor when specifying which types of treatment you do not want. You can differentiate between life-prolonging procedures and those that alleviate pain. Detail specific wishes you have about your care that the form doesn't cover.

Sign the living will form and get it witnessed according to your state's laws. An improperly signed or witnessed will may be ruled invalid.

Give copies to your family members, doctor and lawyer. Put a copy in your home medical file.