Your Voice of Financial Reason

Five Wishes - A Living Will With Heart

Monday, December 10, 2012

Five Wishes is an advance directive template created by the non-profit organization Aging with Dignity.  It is an easy to use legal document written in everyday language that helps you to communicate how you want to be cared for in case you become seriously ill or incapacitated.

Your Five Wishes document lets your family and doctors know:

  • Who you want to make health care decisions for you when you can't make them yourself.
  • The kind of medical treatment you want or don't want.
  • How comfortable you want to be.
  • How you want people to treat you.
  • What you want your loved ones to know.

Five Wishes is helpful for all adults (18 years or older), but anyone can use this document to start the conversation with loved ones.  Sometimes it begins with a grandparent and other times it is a younger member of the family who first brings up the topic.

Either way, this is an invaluable gift to give your loved ones, and additional resources are also available to help you get started.  For example, "The Next Steps" discussion guide tells you exactly how to initiate the conversation, and viewing the Five Wishes DVD with family members can also increase understanding regarding its purpose and importance.

Five Wishes is used in all 50 states and in countries around the world.  It has been called "a living will with heart," and meets the legal requirements for an advance directive in 42 states.  In the other eight states, your completed Five Wishes document can be attached to your state's required form.  Five Wishes can also be used in any part of the world as a helpful guide for documenting your wishes.

 Five Wishes was originally introduced in 1996 as a Florida-only document that combined a living will and health care power of attorney, but also addressed matters of comfort, care, and spirituality.  With help from the American Bar Association's Commission on Law and Aging and leading medical experts, a national version was introduced in 1998.  It was originally distributed with support from a grant by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Five Wishes is now available in 26 languages and in Braille.  More than 18 million documents have been distributed by a network of over 35,000 partner organizations worldwide. 

An online version was introduced in April 2011 allowing users to complete the document using a web-based interface. Another online option is to print a blank version and complete it in one's own handwriting.  To learn more or order copies, visit 

Reprinted by permission of Money Quotient, NP

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