An advance directive (also known as a living will) is a document in which you announce your personal values about life, health, healthcare, dying, suffering, and quality of life. In this document you can indicate the types of treatment you want as well as the types of treatment you dont want. You can also indicate other preferences such as where you want to die (at home vs hospital), if you want to be an organ donor, who you want to function as your proxy/surrogate decision-maker, etc.
You do not need an attorney to prepare a living will. Also, these documents apply only to your healthcare -- not to your personal finance matters (bank accounts, real estate, other assets).
If you would like a free living will template, visit my website, www.TransplantEthics.com and download the pdf file. When you have completed the document, give a copy to your personal physician and also to your surrogate decision-makers.
Overall, living wills are important documents because they guide the medical team to give you the medical care that you want and to not give you the treatments you don't want.
Learn more by reading my book, Finding Your Way: A Medical Ethics Handbook for Patients and Families.
More Answers from Katrina Bramstedt, PhD