Can I Fill Out My Own Living Will and Have it Be Legal?

By A.L. Kennedy

Your living will is a legal document that explains the kind of medical care you do and do not want to have if you become incapacitated. It provides guidance to your family and your physicians when you are unable to tell them yourself what you want. Most states follow the Uniform Health Care Decisions Act, which allows you to fill out your own living will and have it be legal.


Your living will must be in writing to be valid, according to MedLaw Plus. You can either type or write your living will longhand. You can even use a form in which you fill in the required information. The Uniform Health Care Decisions Act includes a sample form which you can use to make your living will, but this form is not required. Your physician or hospital may also be able to provide you with a form or instructions for writing your living will.


In order to be legal, your living will must bear your signature. A living will form usually provides a space for your signature and the date at the bottom of the form. If you are writing your living will without using a form, sign and date your will at the bottom of the last page. Remember to include the day, month and year in the date. This may prevent confusion about which living will is in effect if you later decide to write a new living will with different instructions.

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Most states require at least two witnesses to sign your living will in order for it to be legal. These witnesses should first watch you sign, then each should sign below your name to indicate they saw you sign your own living will. Your witnesses should be at least 18 years old and mentally able to understand what they are witnessing, according to the Uniform Health Care Directives Act. In addition, they should not be medical professionals who are treating you or the person who has power of attorney for your healthcare needs, according to MedLaw Plus.


As of December 2010,l only Nebraska has not adopted the Uniform Health Care Directives Act. Nebraska state law does, however, allow residents to make living wills which should be signed by two witnesses or a notary. Your witnesses cannot be related to you or be your medical professionals.

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Medical Power of Attorney Explanation

When you are competent to make your own medical decisions, your health care providers rely on you to help determine what treatments are best for you. But if you become unable to make your own health care decisions, the person you name in a health care power of attorney will work with health care providers in your stead. For example, if you name your sister as the agent to make your medical decisions in case you become incompetent, she will direct your medical care if you later develop dementia that makes you incapable of making your own health care decisions.

Are Living Wills Able to Stand Up in Court?

Since every state has a provision recognizing advance medical directives, such as living wills or health care powers of attorney, a living will, properly executed according to your state’s laws, should be able to successfully resist a court challenge. However, there are some possible pitfalls that may hurt your living will’s ability to stand up in court.

Can the Next of Kin Overrule a Living Will?

When you can’t make health care decisions for yourself, your next of kin can step in to make those decisions for you. However, while you are still capable of making decisions, you can create a living will to document your health care wishes. When your documented wishes conflict with what your family wants, your physicians are supposed to follow the terms of your living will.

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