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Advice & More March 2014

Dollar Sense

Creating a Living Will Is Not Hard or Expensive

By Teresa Ambord

One 80-year-old woman told me the idea of creating a living will made her feel old, like she was giving up. But the truth is, nobody at any age knows if they’ll live to see tomorrow.

You could be in a fiery car crash today. Suppose you survive in a coma and the doctors say there’s no hope. Would you want to continue indefinitely on life support? Or call it a night? Most people say they have thought about what they would want to have happen, but only one in three has made the effort to create a living will. You may know exactly what you want. But does anybody else know? While there is time, you need to put it in writing.

Creating a living will not only helps ensure your wishes are carried out. It also relieves your family of having to make tough decisions at a time when emotions will be strained. One 80-year-old woman told me the idea of creating a living will made her feel old, like she was giving up. But the truth is, nobody at any age knows if they’ll live to see tomorrow. Recent national news has highlighted the unrelated cases of two young females – one just a teenager – and the other a young mother and wife, who lapsed into comas. Both resulted in ugly court battles. You can save your family that grief by taking a little time to create a living will. The process is simple and can be low or no-cost.


Here’s What You Need   

  • A health care proxy or health care power of attorney (POA). This gives someone the power to make your medical decisions if you cannot. For example, you may have told your adult daughter what your wishes are. A health care proxy or POA gives her the authority to carry out your wishes.
  • An advance directive. You’ve heard of a “do not resuscitate” or DNR order. If you’ve decided you do not want extraordinary measures taken to save your life, like CPR, your advance directive, which is recognized in all states, ensures this. You can complement your advance directive with a physician’s order for life sustaining treatment (POLST). Sixteen states recognize a POLST and many others are working on it. The POLST translates your end-of-life wishes into medical orders which will be honored by your doctors. You can learn more about this by going to


Where Do You Get the Forms?   

The requirements for a living will vary by state, so you will need state specific forms.  Caring Connections ( is one place. This is a resource created by National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. You can download free forms that will work in your state. You can also call them at 800-658-8898 and they will mail you the forms for free and answer questions.

Advance directive forms are also available from your doctor, hospital, or the local health department.

Another resource is called Five Wishes. For $5 you can get the forms for a living will. This resource was created by Aging for Dignity, a not-for-profit advocacy organization. This is a simple do-it-yourself form that covers all facets of a living will, in detailed documents. These forms are legally valid in 42 states. Call 888-594-7437 or go to or

If you prefer to let an attorney handle your living will, find one who specializes in estate planning or healthcare related matters. The cost should be roughly $200 to $500. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys ( or the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils ( 866) 226-2224 help you find someone.


Incapacitated but Not Dying   

If you can’t speak for yourself but your health condition is not dire, your living will will not kick in. However, if you have a health proxy or a health care power of attorney, it could become effective. This gives someone else – your adult child, for example – the authority to make healthcare decisions for you.

Just know this… if no one knows that you have made a living will, it will be useless. Talk about your plans and wishes and the steps you have taken, like making a living will. Talk to your family, close friends, your doctor, your pastor, someone who you trust to make sure your end-of-life wishes are honored. Make sure that appropriate people have copies of your living will so there will be no trouble or confusion.

Not only does creating a living will greatly increase the chances your last wishes will be honored, but you’ll save your loved ones additional grief at a highly emotional time.


Teresa Ambord is a former accountant and Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Now she writes full time from her home, mostly for business, and about family when the inspiration strikes.

Meet Teresa