Skip to main content

This content was last updated on 11/15/2023

What is a Living Will?

A living will is a written set of directions about your health care. These directions are followed if something happens and you can’t make decisions or communicate about your health care. It makes sure that you have the right to get the medical care you want. The right to decide – to say yes or no to a treatment – is the right of every Kentuckian.

Why is it important to have a living will?

Every person has a basic right to make personal health care decisions. The best way to protect this right is to name someone you trust to make decisions for you if a time comes that you can’t do it for yourself.  A living will also helps make sure that you get the health care you want, even when you can’t make decisions for yourself. You don’t have to have a living will to get healthcare, but having one makes sure that your wishes are followed if you can’t communicate them.

Should I make a living will now, even if I can still make my own decisions?

Yes. The time to make a living will is while you still can make your wishes known. As long as you are okay to make your own decisions about your health care, your living will isn’t used. It can only be used if you are:

  • physically or mentally unable to give directions about your own medical care, or
  • terminally ill or permanently unconscious
What does a living will cover?

A living will lets you leave instructions in 4 critical areas. You can:

  1. Name someone to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them for yourself. This person is called a ‘health care surrogate.’
  2. Leave directions about if you want to refuse or accept life-prolonging treatment
  3. Leave directions about if you want to refuse or accept artificial food and water, like a feeding tube.
  4. Leave directions about your wishes on your organ donation.
Who can make a living will?

Anyone who is over the age of 18 can make a living will.

Do I have to hire a lawyer to make a living will?

No, you don’t need a lawyer to make your living will.

But, if you want to make changes to your living will, you will need to talk to a lawyer.

Is there a form I fill out to make a living will?

Yes. In Kentucky there is a specific form you use when making your living will. See the Kentucky Living Will Packet on the Kentucky Attorney General’s website.

You don’t have to use this form. You can write up your own living will. But if you don’t want to use the form, you might want to talk to a lawyer to make sure you get all the information in the document.

What information does the form ask for?

The living will form has 2 sections:

  1. Health Care Surrogate Section
    This section lets you name one or more people, like a family member or a close friend, to make health care decisions for you if you lose the ability to make those decisions for yourself.
  2. Living Will Section
    This section lets you make your wishes known about life-prolonging treatment, getting fed with a feeding tube, and if you want to donate your organs after your death. This lets your doctors and health care surrogate know what you want.
How do I choose a health care surrogate?

Your health care surrogate has the power to make important decisions about you and your treatment. Make sure you choose someone that you trust. You might also think about naming a 2nd health care surrogate in case your first choice isn’t available when needed.

Talk to the person you want to name as your health care surrogate. First, make sure they are okay with it. Then talk to them about the things you want and don’t want in health care. This helps them make the decisions you want when you can’t make medical decisions for yourself. All your wishes should be written out clearly in the living will. Give your health care surrogate a copy of the document.

It is also a good idea to share your wishes with your family and doctors.

Who has to sign the form?

After you fill out the form completely, you need to sign and date it. You have to sign the form in front of:

  • 2 witnesses. Your witnesses have to be 18 or older.  
  • a notary.


The following people CAN’T be a witness or the notary when you sign:

  • A blood relative of yours
  • A person who is going to inherit your property under Kentucky law
  • Your current doctor
  • Any person directly financially responsible for your health care
  • An employee of a health care facility where you are a patient can’t be a witness but they can be the notary

Once I have made my living will, what should I do with it?
Keep a copy for yourself in a safe place. Anytime you go to the hospital for an overnight stay, they ask you if you have a living will. Tell them that you do. If you take a copy with you, they can add it to your medical record.

For more information on living wills in Kentucky, or to get a copy of the living will packet, visit the Kentucky Attorney General’s website here.



Was this info helpful?

Please include your email if you want us to follow up with you.