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Brandon Miller is a Financial Advisor with American Express Financial Advisors based in San Francisco, California and can be reached at    One of his specialties is comprehensive financial planning for gay and lesbian individuals and couples.

Brandon Miller has a website that can be found at  

Creating a Living Will

According to a recent survey from the Council on Aging, 74% of people polled believed that creating a living will is very important. In fact, creating a living will tied with building up savings for retirement as the most important factor in preparing for later life. However, only 36% of Americans have a living will, according to a survey from

Put It in Writing

A living will tells doctors, hospitals and your family your wishes in the event that you become terminally or incurably ill or injured. You can write a living will yourself or with the assistance of a lawyer. Here are a few helpful tips:

Use Resources

Through, you can download a document called the Five Wishes Living Will. The Five Wishes Living Will is accepted in 35 out of 50 states. You also can download a free prospective will at The American Association of Retired Persons ( also offers many resources.

State Laws

Make sure your living will conforms to your state's laws. For example, some states require the will to be signed by two witnesses, be certified by a notary public and contain specific language.

Be Clear

Be consistent and specific about your wishes. Do you want extraordinary life-saving measures? Do you want to receive pain medication, artificial respiration, heart pumps, dialysis, artificial nutrition and/or hydration? Your living will must address specifics, or it will not be a valuable tool.

Choose an Advocate

Identify in your living will the person you trust to be your advocate, to execute your wishes on your behalf. You may want to choose a second and third person in case your first choice is not available.

Share Your Wishes

Give a copy of your living will to your family, your doctor and your witnesses. Do not leave it in a desk drawer or safe-deposit box. By law, safe-deposit boxes are frozen when you die and require a court order to be opened. Update your living will once a year.

Life Insurance and Estate Planning

Now, also may be the right time to review other documents necessary to protect your family. Do you have adequate disability, long-term care and life insurance? Does someone know where to find your documents, safe-deposit box key, etc.? Do you have a financial plan that includes trust and estate planning?

Seek Help

Creating a living will is just one part of the estate planning process. A qualified financial advisor can help you and your family create a comprehensive plan and best prepare for the future.


This information is provided for informational purposes only. The information is intended to be generic in nature and should not be applied or relied upon in any particular situation without the advice of your tax, legal and/or your financial advisor. The views expressed may not be suitable for every situation.

American Express Financial Advisors Inc. Member NASD. American Express Company is separate from American Express Financial Advisors Inc. and is not a broker-dealer.

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