Brenda Lyle, One Senior Place – Special to FLORIDA TODAY

This is a new Q&A feature provided by One Senior Place, a marketplace for resources and a provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families, located in Viera.


Q: What is the difference between a will and a living will?

A: Simply put, a will is a legal document that indicates how your possessions and affairs should be handled after your death.

A “living will” or advance directive provides instructions on how you want to be treated at the end of your life.

If you have lived in Florida for a while, you might remember the 2005 Terri Schiavo case.

Terri was in a vegetative state for 15 years, during which a court battle raged between her husband and her parents over the withdrawal of medical treatment.

Terri did not have a living will.

Only 37% of Americans do, according to a 2017 report by Reuters Health. A template for a simple but thorough living will is called “Five Wishes.”

Considered a legal document in Florida and 43 other states, Five Wishes allows you to name a health care surrogate in the first of your Five Wishes. This person can make decisions on your behalf, if/when you become unable to do so.

While this may be a family member, it doesn’t have to be. The most important thing is their willingness to carry out your wishes.

Your second wish allows you to request or refuse specific medical treatments.

This includes things like feeding tubes, ventilators, CPR or transfusions.

This is not the same as a “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) order, which only pertains to CPR by emergency personnel.
The Five Wishes document presents several end-of-life scenarios so you can weigh what medical treatments you want — or don’t want.

Wish No. 3 allows you to request things related to your comfort level at the end of your life. This wish addresses pain management, personal care and spirituality.

Wish four addresses your requests for visitation and social interaction when you near the end of life.

Wish five helps you “make amends.”

This wish is for you to grant — or ask — for love and forgiveness for hurts in your life.

You may also make your funeral requests in this wish or address other matters of closure.

Your completed Five Wishes document has to be witnessed by two people over the age of 18, separate from your health care surrogate.

In Florida, notarization is not necessary. Lastly, and importantly, it should be shared with your family, health care surrogate and medical care team.

The Five Wishes advance directive is as crucial today as when it was introduced in Florida in 1997.

It is both valid and legal, and ensures that a person’s dignity is fully respected.

You can find more information on or call One Senior Place to get your free copy.


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One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and a provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. To submit a question, send an email to or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging at

Brenda Lyle is a Certified Care Manager for One Senior Place.