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Planning tools: Five Wishes

Updated: Apr 12, 2021

This post is one in a series about tools to help you document and share your end-of-life wishes. I am not affiliated with the tools' creators and offer these summaries to help you choose a tool that is right for you.


About Five Wishes


Five Wishes was created by Aging with Dignity, a private, nonprofit organization that helps people manage aging and serious illness. Aging with Dignity developed Five Wishes with guidance from the American Bar Association and end-of-life experts. It "was designed to be accessible, legal, and easy-to-understand with the goal of helping people discuss and document their wishes in a non-threatening, life-affirming way." Over the past 22 years, more than 35 million people have used Five Wishes to create their end-of-life plans.


What are the benefits of using Five Wishes?


Five Wishes will help you create a living will and health care proxy. The documents you create using Five Wishes are valid 44 states and the District of Columbia. In the remaining 6 states, you must attach a state approved document to the Five Wishes document for it to be legally valid.


The tool is organized around these five wishes:


1: The Person I Want to Make Care Decisions for Me When I Can't

2: The Kind of Medical Treatment I Want or Don't Want

3: How Comfortable I Want to Be

4: How I Want People to Treat Me

5: What I Want My Loved Ones to Know


Once you complete the online form, you can download a pdf of your Five Wishes document. The document recommends that you print the pdf and have it signed by two witnesses. As with all planning tools, you need to be sure to share the document with your health care proxy and your medical team.


Who should consider using Five Wishes?


Five Wishes is a great tool for those without any experience dealing with the many questions that arise in serious illness and end-of-life care. It is easy to use because the document lets you check the things you want for your care and cross off the things that you don't. You need to be comfortable working with a pdf, but no advanced computer skills are needed to use the Five Wishes form.


Five Wishes is focused on your end-of-life health care. Wish 5 includes questions about your wishes for your memorial service, but the form doesn't leave much room for your answer. If you have specific wishes about arrangements after your death, you should document those elsewhere.


How to get Five Wishes


You can access the tool by creating a free account on the Five Wishes website https://fivewishes.org/. If you are more comfortable with paper, you can purchase a paper copy for $5. View a sample Five Wishes form here to see if this tool is right for you:

https://fivewishes.org/docs/default-source/Samples/five-wishes-sample.pdf.