A living will, or medical directive, is a document that specifies the kinds of medical care you do or do not want should you become unable to communicate with doctors or medical staff. Registering your living will is a simple, though important, process.

Creating a living will

The necessary forms for creating your living will are available from either of two national living will registries: the U.S. Living Will Registry and the American Living Will Registry. If you live in Nevada, Vermont, or Washington State, the required forms are available from their respective state living will registries.

While the questions you will be required to answer in a living will document may require serious thought on your part, the forms themselves are generally very easy to understand and completing them doesn't take much time.

Once you have completed all of the necessary forms, it is time to submit your living will documents to a living will registry.

Registering your living will

There are a few different ways you can register a living will. You may wish to start by asking your doctor's office if that is something they do or if they can help you contact the right people to help you submit your living will. Some health care providers, or community partners, offer the service at a discounted rate, or in some instances, for free.

If you decide to register your living will yourself, you can send it to a living will registry and pay a one-time fee that will keep your living will accessible for as long as necessary.

Access to your living will

After your living will has been officially registered it will be available to you, your doctor, hospitals, and any other health care provider (e.g. nursing home, hospices) who may need access to it to provide you with the appropriate medical care.

You will receive identifying documents such as wallet cards that indicate you have a living will. This card will direct your health care provider to contact the appropriate registry to gain access to your living will. It is important that you keep the identifying documents with you, as well as keeping secondary copies in a safe place where someone close to you can have access to them, if necessary.

  • Complete your living will using the documents available from one of the national or state agencies (see additional resources below).
  • Register your living will with one of the aforementioned agencies.
  • Be sure to keep any identifying documents with you that will indicate to health care providers that you have a living will.

Additional resources:

U.S. Living Will Registry

American Living Will Registry

Living Will Declaration Form

Related Legal Guides:

Living Will

Avoiding Probate

Revocable Trusts

Power of Attorney