What is a Living Will?


Legal editor, attorney

Cake values integrity and transparency. We follow a strict editorial process to provide you with the best content possible. We also may earn commission from purchases made through affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more in our affiliate disclosure.

Living wills communicate your wishes about the kinds of medical care you would or would not want to receive, should you be unable to make those choices yourself. Not having a living will can cause confusion, guilt, and even conflict in your family.

Jump ahead to these sections:

Cake can help you or your loved one get this and all of your other end-of-life planning in order. Simple choices made in advance can make all the difference between a good or bad end-of-life experience. It’s not as hard as you think to plan properly. We can guide you through the whole process.

Don’t force your loved ones to make decisions about your life without you. Cake helps you give the gift of planning and preparation to the people you care about most. Our platform is free forever, highly secure, and easy to use. Create your free Cake plan.

What is a Living Will?

A living will is also known as an Advance Healthcare Directive, Advance Directive or Medical Directive. The purpose of a living will is to inform people of your wishes in case you are no longer able to communicate them. This end-of-life medical care document can ensure that you receive the medical treatment you desire when faced with life-threatening issues.

Only certain events can trigger a living will — such being put on life support, entering a coma or a vegetative state. Living wills only go into effect if you are no longer able to express your wants and desires about the medical care you are receiving. 

The more specific the living will, the better and easier it is for your family and care providers to make good decisions, and the more likely you are to have your final wishes met.

If you're also interested in creating a legal will to reflect wishes for your estate after death, you can explore your options below. Our top recommendation for creating an online will, health care plan, and more is Trust & Will, but there are options to suit every budget and need. 

How to create a will
Option Price range Best if you... Get started

Online will maker


  • Have a simple estate and are confident about the legal process
  • Don't anticipate large estate, gift taxes, or complex legal issues

Find an Online Will Maker

Basic estate planning attorney


  • Have a slightly complicated estate or questions about the legal process
  • Don't have significant assets, businesses, or multiple wills and don’t anticipate complex legal issues

Schedule a Free Online Consultation

Attorney who specializes in complex estates


  • Have a very complicated estate with significant assets you want to protect, questions about the legal process, and anticipate complex legal or tax issues
  • Can afford a more expensive attorney

Schedule a Free Online Consultation

Who Should Have a Living Will?

Everyone. You never know when a tragedy or accident can strike, and we’ve never heard of anyone regretting taking the time for end-of-life planning and making personal healthcare directives. Being prepared can ease the burden on your family during a stressful stage of life. Don’t wait for declining health to kickstart your end-of-life planning. Give your family peace of mind by getting your ducks in a row now.

Tip: Create a free, legal living will and advance directive on FreeWill. This is our favorite free tool for getting your final wishes in order. 

» MORE: Need help paying for a funeral? Let Cake help with a free consultation.

How Does a Living Will Protect You?

A living will informs doctors, your Health Care Proxy, and your family on how you want to be treated in situations where you are no longer able to communicate. These situations can include irreversible coma, a persistent vegetative state, or loss of decision-making ability from advanced dementia.

If you do not create a living will, then the state will decide who will make end-of-life decisions for you according to individual state laws. Depending on your state, a living will may be a  legally-binding document that must be followed. To learn more about living wills in your state and download your state's forms, check out our Advance Directives Forms by US State page.

» MORE: Save thousands on funeral costs by knowing your options – schedule a free consultation today.

How Does a Living Will Fit Into Overall End-of-Life Planning?

Each state has different requirements on how to create your living will. At Cake, we are here to support and guide you to make sure you understand where to go to find the information you need to start this process. By signing up for a free Cake account, you can begin your end-of-life planning with a comprehensive, personalized checklist that guides you through each step.

While a living will is vital, it is only one of many documents and decisions which comprise overall end-of-life planning. Others include life insurance, wills, estate planning, funeral and memorial planning — in addition to securely sharing your wishes with loved ones. Create your free Cake plan.

Disclaimer: The information posted on this site is provided solely for informational and educational purposes and is not legal advice or tax advice. Contact an appropriate professional licensed in your jurisdiction for advice specific to your legal or tax situation.

Icons sourced from FlatIcon.