Living Will Definition

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on February 26, 2024

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Living wills are legal documents that contain information about the individual's health care wishes in the event they can no longer speak for themselves.

This allows individuals to express their preferences concerning medical treatments, medication, and future healthcare decisions so that those preferences will be honored by doctors or others.

The cost of a Living Will may vary depending on where it is created, who creates it, and their experience in drafting the documents.

The cost typically falls between $100 and $1,000 to hire a lawyer to create a Living Will for you, while forms that are available online may cost as little as $10 to download.

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Taylor Kovar, CFP®

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I'm Taylor Kovar, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), specializing in helping business owners with strategic financial planning.

In one memorable case, I assisted a client in crafting a living will that reflected their complex family dynamics and diverse financial portfolio. By employing a strategic blend of clear communication and tailored estate planning techniques, we navigated the sensitive intricacies of asset distribution. This approach not only ensured their legacy was preserved according to their wishes but also minimized potential family disputes and tax implications. Ensure your legacy is protected and your loved ones cared for.

Contact me at (936) 899 - 5629 or [email protected] to discuss how we can achieve your financial objectives.


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What Is a Living Will?

A Living Will is a document that allows an individual to express his wishes related to future healthcare decisions.

It may also be known as an Advance Healthcare Directive, Living Will Directive or simply Living Wills.

These are legal documents written by the individual expressing what treatments they wish to receive or do not want to receive in the event that the person becomes unable to communicate their wishes.

Living wills are also sometimes used by people who have a severe medical condition, in order to help delineate their wishes ahead of time so that there is no confusion later on when it comes time to make the medical choices.

Living Wills are different from Living Wills directives in that Living Will directives are typically orders given by a doctor, while Living Wills are the legal documents that express your wishes in writing.

This type of document can also be used by people who wish to conserve their assets or determine what to do with them in the event of incapacity, by appointing a health care proxy.

Importance of a Living Will

Living Wills serve to protect an individual's right of autonomy and self-determination by allowing them to document their choices for treatment in the event that they are unable to speak for themselves.

What happens if there is no Living Will?

If there is no Living Will, decisions may be made on the individual's behalf that they would not have wanted to happen.

Authority for these types of decisions falls on family members or doctors who will make the decision based upon their own opinion of what the best medical choice would be.

What happens if you die without a Will?

If you die without a Living Will, your assets will be passed on to relatives or charities according to the law of intestacy.

Living Wills give individuals more control over their future and what happens after they pass away.

How To Get Started With the Process

Living wills can be created by an individual themselves or they can be created with the help of a lawyer.

When hiring a lawyer, it is important to make sure that the Living Will document complies with your state's requirements and has proper notarization and witnesses where necessary.

It is important that they are created correctly and in accordance with the law.

A lawyer will provide you a cost estimate based on your specific situation. They can also help answer questions such as what to expect, costs and how the process works.

An alternative option to hiring an attorney to create your Living Will is to download the Living Will form online.

Make sure to check your state's requirements before downloading any forms to ensure that the form is valid.

How Much Does It Cost To Create a Living Will?

When researching which estate planning lawyer to hire, Living Will cost should be one of your prime considerations.

The traditional cost ranges between $100 and $1,000 for a lawyer to create the Living Will.

However, there are Living Will forms available online that can cost as little as $10 if you do not need updates or amendments done after the initial Living Will is created.

Lawyers tend to use either of the following payment systems:

Contingency Living Wills

Lawyers that charge using the contingency system typically do not charge anything upfront.

They instead take a percentage of your Living Will settlement if you win in court.

If you lose, however, you usually have to cover the cost for their services. This cost can range between 20% - 40% of the Living Will settlement.

Do-It-Yourself Living Wills

This is a cost-effective method of Living Will documents. People who wish to create their own Living Will can download the form online and notarize the Will themselves.

This is typically one of the cheapest options because you do not need to hire a lawyer or pay any cost up front.

Flat-Fee Living Wills

The cost typically includes the Living Will, updates, amendments, forms and notarization.

Lawyers ask for flat costs instead of rates because the documents are different from client to client.

Flat Living Will cost can range from $100 - $1000 depending on where the document is being done and what services they offer.

Hourly Payment Living Wills

Lawyer's cost can also be measured by time spent creating the Living Will documents. This cost typically charges a rate of $100 - $200 per hour if paid hourly.

Living Wills that are more complex or have a greater number of options may cost more than Living Wills that consist of only one option.

The cost can also vary according to the specialty of the lawyer.

Sliding Fee Living Wills

Lawyers that charge Living Will cost by the sliding fee system are willing to work with you based on your budget.

The cost may range between $250 -$500 depending on the lawyer, how much time it takes them to complete the Living Will and whether or not updates need to be done.

Factors that Impact Living Will Costs

Some of the factors that Living Will cost depends on include complexity, lawyer's expertise, online documents and location.


Living Wills that have a lot of details on issues such as execution, administration and compliance tend to cost more because they take a longer time to create.

Lawyer's Specialty

Lawyers typically charge differently depending on their specialty.

The cost can range from $100 - $1000 for Wills that are drawn up by a lawyer with expertise.

Living Wills typically cost less if the language is simple and options are few.

Living Wills Online

There are a number of online legal documents providers that have the ability to create living wills for you at lower costs than an attorney would provide.


The costs vary depending on where the documents are created. Legal services in urban areas tend to be more expensive because of higher overhead costs.

Rural lawyers, however, typically charge less.

Benefits of Hiring a Lawyer for Living Will

Hiring a lawyer is beneficial because Wills are complex documents that need to follow legal requirements.

An experienced lawyer can help you navigate through the process and ensure that your Will gets administered as smoothly as possible.

Lawyers also draw up Wills quickly, which means that you obtain Living Wills faster than you would if you go the do-it-yourself route.

Living Will FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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