Living Wills

What is a living will?

A living will is a document that lets you express your choices to accept or refuse medical care, especially palliative care (medical care focused on relieving suffering and improving quality of life) and the use of extraordinary procedures and treatment. For example, you can state whether you want IV fluids or life support. You can also express your organ donation preferences.

Who can prepare a living will?

Anyone who is competent can prepare a living will. A competent person is one who understands and appreciates the natures and consequences of a decision to accept or refuse treatment.

What is required to make a living will?

The living will must be on a form with certain language that is required by the State. It must be signed in front of a notary or 2 witnesses.

What if I want to be cremated?

It is a good idea to include cremation wishes in a living will rather than other documents since a living will is more easily accessible and usually becomes part of a patient’s medical file.

What do I do with my living will after it is prepared?

You should deliver a copy of your living will to your medical providers. You should also be prepared to give a copy to the hospital any time you are admitted for care.

What if I change my mind?

You can revoke your living will in writing or by telling your attending physician.

Living Wills PDF

Acknowledgements & Disclaimer: This Fact Sheet was prepared by West Tennessee Legal Services (WTLS) and made possible by Serving Tennessee Seniors-administered by The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee at the request of the Chancery Court. WTLS thanks the Tennessee Bar Association for its permission to use The Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors (2014 edition) as a primary information source. This publication is supported, in part, by funds provided by the Southwest Area Agency on Aging and Disability, the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The content herein does not necessarily reflect the opinion or policy of the Southwest Area Agency on Aging and Disability or any agency of Tennessee or the U.S. government. Fact Sheets are for information only and not intended to replace legal advice. If you are in need of legal help, call WTLS at (800) 372-8346, or seek the help of a private attorney. (Revised 5/2017)