Living Will

Have you thought about the care you would want if you became seriously ill, were in a coma or couldn’t do things for yourself? What quality of life would be important to you? Who would speak for you if you were unable to speak for yourself? We recommend that you discuss your wishes with your loved ones and your doctors, appoint someone to speak for you, and then document your decision in a Living Will. Always bring a copy of your Living Will to the hospital any time you are admitted.

Download the Kentucky Living Will Packet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Image of mature couple embracing.

What is a living will?

A living will is a document that enables a person to make his or her wishes known regarding life-prolonging treatment in advance of the time when the person is no longer able to participate actively in decisions concerning his or her medical care.

Why would one want or need a living will?

Medical technology has become so advanced an individual can be kept “alive” on machines almost indefinitely. If one chooses not to be placed on these machines under certain circumstances, a living will is one way to assure one’s wishes will be honored.

Where can additional information be obtained?

  • Kentucky Attorney General’s Website
  • Division of Aging Services, Commonwealth of Kentucky
    (502) 564-6930
  • Senior Citizen Center
  • Family physicians
  • Private attorney
  • Legal Aid and Legal Services Corporation
  • State Legislators or Legislative Research Commission
  • Kentucky Bar Association lawyer referral service
  • Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates

Is an attorney needed in order to complete a living will or to designate a health care surrogate?

No, as long as the correct form is used.

What are the differences between a living will, a health care surrogate, an ordinary will, and a durable power of attorney?

Living Will – A document that enables an adult to make his or her wishes known regarding life prolonging treatment and artificial feeding or hydration when the person is no longer able to participate actively in decisions concerning medical care when terminally ill.

Health Care Surrogate – A document that designates another adult to make healthcare decisions when a person no longer has the capacity to make such decisions.

Durable Power of Attorney – A document that allows a person to designate someone to make decisions for him regarding health, personal and financial affairs even when disabled.

Ordinary Will – A document that allows a person to designate to whom and how ownership of one’s personal property and real estate will be distributed after death.

What does a person do with the living will, designated health care surrogate form or other document following completion?

These documents should be kept in a safe place, and a family member and a physician should be informed of the existence and location of the document(s).

When a surrogate is chosen, tell him or her and give them a copy of the document.

Is a living will or designation of healthcare surrogate executed in Kentucky by a resident of Kentucky valid in other states?

A check with officials in other states is needed in order to determine a particular state’s requirements.

Who can sign a living will or healthcare surrogate designation?

Anyone 18 years of age or older of sound mind and possessing decisional capacity (the ability to make and communicate a healthcare decision).

Can a doctor, hospital, insurance company, nursing home, or family member force one to execute a living will or other document before providing treatment?


Can a son or daughter witness a parent’s living will?

No. The law requires two witnesses or a notary public, but the witnesses or notary public cannot be a blood relative, a beneficiary, an employee of a healthcare facility in which the parent is a patient (unless the employee serves as a notary public), an attending physician, nor any person financially responsible for the parent’s healthcare.

Can a son or daughter be a healthcare surrogate?

Yes, as long as he or she is an adult (18 years or older).

What steps must be taken to revoke a living will or healthcare surrogate designation if one changes his mind?

Any of the following will revoke the document:

  • A written, signed and dated statement indicating a clear intent to revoke;
  • An oral statement which reveals intention to revoke; or
  • By destroying or having destroyed all copies of the document.

Can an employee or director of a healthcare facility act as a surrogate?

No, unless he/she is a relative of the patient.

Can a relative keep a doctor from honoring a living will or health care surrogate designation?


What happens if a surviving relative instructs a hospital or physician not to honor a living will or healthcare surrogate designation?

A relative cannot legally do so. A hospital does not have the authority to follow the relative’s instructions contrary to a valid living will or healthcare surrogate.

Is there a civil or criminal liability for honoring a living will or healthcare surrogate?


Must a doctor or hospital honor a living will or instructions from a healthcare surrogate?

No. However, if they do not honor the living will or health care surrogate, they must notify the patient or family immediately. If one is already a patient and requests it, the hospital must assist in the transfer to a hospital/doctor who will honor the living will.

Where can one obtain additional copies of the form to complete?

Copies can be obtained from: