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What's the difference?
  • Medical Power of Attorney: it gives an agent the authority to make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated.

  • Living Will: it allows an individual to state preferences for medical treatment, focusing on end-of-life decisions.

  • Advance Directive: it includes the instructions collected in a Living Will and in a Medical Power of Attorney.

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Last Update February 25th, 2024

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What is an Advance Directive

An Advance Medical Directive is a legal document used to set a medical treatment plan in certain circumstances. 

Other names for an Advance Directive include: 

  • Advance Care Directive

  • Advance Medical Directive

  • Health Care Directive

  • Advance Decision Form

An Advance Directive also outlines the treatment preferences and assigns an agent to make decisions if you become unable to. You assign this agent when you are creating your document. 

What is the purpose of an Advance Directive?

The purpose is to give the person who signs it (the principal) the authority to choose medical treatments he or she would like to receive. 

This comes into effect only when the principal becomes unable to communicate, such as in an end-of-life situation.

What Should Be Included in an Advance Directive Form

An Advance Health Care Directive is a combination of legal documents. In the past, it was common for someone to have a Living Will, a Medical POA, or one of each. 

These are the different parts that should be included within the Advance Directive: 

  • Living Will: This notifies your family and medical personnel of your preference of treatment or operations you would accept or refuse if you are unable to communicate. 

  • Medical Power of Attorney: It assigns the person of your choice to be responsible for making your healthcare decisions. This person is usually a family member or friend. 

LawDistrict provides an Advance Directive template that is simple to follow. With this template, you can make your Directive with ease.

How to Write an Advance Directive

Follow this step-by-step guide on how to write your Advance Directive. This way, you know exactly what to include

  1. Name and Medical POA: Fill in your name to declare the Directive that you are of legal age and sound mind, and assign your agent. Include any limitations your MPOA has on decision-making. 

    Designation of an Agent

  2. Alternate Agents: Select up to 3 substitute agents. Include their addresses and phone numbers, as well as their limitations. 

    Designation of Alternate Agents

  3. Expiry date: Declare you understand the powers of the Power of Attorney continue indefinitely, or until the day you decide. Choose a day that the Power of Attorney will expire if you prefer this option

    Advance Directive Duration

  4. Original and copies of the MPOA: Fill in who has your document, as well as the contact information. Include the same information for any copies. 

    Copies of the Medical POA

  5. Living Will: Choose to declare the medical treatment you would or would not receive in an end-of-life situation. Include any other specific instructions if you wish. 

    Application of Living Will and Instructions

  6. Witness signatures: Include the declaration, contact information and signatures of your witnesses. This includes your signature as well. 

    Signature of Witness

  7. Notarization: If you want to include a notary public as a witness in your Advance Directive, write a declaration for them to sign. 

    Advance Directive Notarization

Take advantage of our Advance Directive template to make this process much simpler

Advance Directive Decisions

When you make an Advance Directive, it is important to think about your choices and medical preferences

What does Advance Directive mean for you? 

If you are drafting an Advance Directive because you want to have control when you are unable to communicate, your decisions could come into effect during one of these medical situations: 

  • Terminal illness: You have an incurable illness.

  • Vegetative state: You are not conscious and there is little hope for improvement.

  • Life support: You cannot live without machines or intervention. 

Advance Directive Laws by State and Requirements

Depending on the state you live in, signing an Advance Directive could have fewer or more requirements. 

Before you write yours, read your state's law and requirements below.

State Signing Requirement Law
Alabama 2 witnesses § 22-8A-4(c)(4)
Alaska 2 witnesses or notary Public §13.52.010(b)
Arizona 1 witness or notary Public § 36-3221(A)(3), § 36-3262
Arkansas 2 witness or notary Public § 20-6-103(c), § 20-17-202
California 2 witnesses or notary Public § 4701
Colorado 2 witnesses or notary Public § 15-18-106(1)
Connecticut 2 witnesses § 19a-575a, § 19a-575
Delaware 2 witnesses § 2503(b)(1)
Florida 2 witnesses § 765.202(1), § 765.302(1)
Georgia 2 witnesses § 31-32-5(c)(1)
Hawaii 2 witnesses or notary Public § 327E-3(b)(1)(2)
Idaho Only the principal § 39-4510
Illinois 2 witnesses § 35/3(b)
Indiana 2 witnesses § 16-36-4-8(b)(5), § 16-36-1-7
Iowa 2 witnesses & notary Public § 144B.3
Kansas 2 witnesses or notary Public § 65-28,103, § 58-632
Kentucky 2 witnesses or notary Public § 311.625(2)
Louisiana 2 witnesses § 28:224, § 40:1151.4
Maine 2 witnesses § 5-803(2)
Maryland 2 witnesses § 5-602(c)
Massachusetts 2 witnesses § 201D-2
Michigan 2 witnesses § 700.5506(4)
Minnesota 2 witnesses or notary Public § 145C.03
Mississippi 2 witnesses or notary Public § 41-41-209
Missouri 2 witnesses & notary Public § 404.705, § 459.015
Montana 2 witnesses § 50–9–103(1), § 53-21-1304(2)(d)
Nebraska 2 witnesses or notary Public § 30-3404(5), § 20-404(1)
Nevada 2 witnesses or notary Public §162A.790(2), §449A.433(1)
New Hampshire 2 witnesses or notary Public § 137-J:14
New Jersey 2 witnesses or notary Public § 26:2H-1
New Mexico Only the principal § 24-7A-2(B), § 24-7A-4
New York 2 witnesses § 2981
North Carolina 2 witnesses or notary public § 90-321, § 32A-16(3)
North Dakota 2 witnesses or notary public § 23-06.5-05
Ohio 2 witnesses or notary public § 2133.02(A)(1), § 1337.12(B)(C)
Oklahoma 2 witnesses § 63-3101.4
Oregon 2 witnesses or notary public §127
Pennsylvania 2 witnesses § 5442, § 5452
Rhode Island 2 witnesses or notary public § 23-4.11-3, § 23-4.10-2
South Carolina 2 witnesses & notary public § 62-5-503, § 62-5-504, § 44-77-40
South Dakota 2 witnesses or notary public § 59-7-2.1, § 34-12D-2
Tennessee 2 witnesses or notary public § 68-11-1803(b), § 34-6-203(a)(3)
Texas 2 witnesses or notary public § 166.154, § 166.164
Utah 1 witness § 75-2a-107(c)
Vermont 2 witnesses § 9703
Virginia 2 witnesses § 54.1-2983
Washington 2 witnesses or notary public § 11.125.050, § 70.122.030
Washington D.C. 2 witnesses § 7-622(a)(4) & § 21–2205(c)
West Virginia 2 witnesses or notary public § 16-30-4(a)
Wisconsin 2 witnesses § 155.10(1)(c), § 154.03(1)
Wyoming 2 witnesses or notary public § 35-22-403(b)

Example of an Advance Directive

Before you write a legal form or document, it is always a good idea to see a sample.

Reviewing what an example of an Advance Directive is will help you write your document. It will:

  • Help you know what to include

  • How to outline your document

  • Ensure you don’t make any mistakes

Look at our example template below:

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Advance Directive Form

Advance Directive FAQs

To give you more information about Advance Directives and how to write them, we have included responses to some common questions. 

Use these answers to make sure you have absolutely everything you need to create your documentation.

What is the Difference Between Advance Directive and Living Will

When you make your Advance Directive, another legal document you will have to familiarize yourself with is a Living Will.

Although they go hand-in-hand, they aren’t exactly the same. 

Who Can Witness an Advance Directive

Depending on the state you live in, at least 1 witness is almost always mandatory. However, this is not always the case. 

It is recommended to have at least 2 witnesses, even if you aren’t required to have any witnesses. 

Can I Make Changes to My Health Care Directive?

You can make a change to your Advance Directive. All you need to do is destroy the one you currently have. 

After you have gotten rid of your old one, you might need information on how to get an Advance Directive again.

Use LawDistrict’s template to make your new document in a few simple steps.

When Should I Update an Advance Directive

Your Advance Directive should be updated if certain changes happen in your life, such as: 

Always make sure your legal documents are updated, and check our website for any legal needs or forms.

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Advance Directive Form

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Preview of your Advance Directive

Alabama ADVANCED DIRECTIVE:
DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR HEALTH CARE AND LIVING WILL
Principal's Information

Principal's Full Name: _________
Date of Birth: _________
Address: _________
Telephone number: _________
Email address: _________

The Principal is completing this form in Alabama.
Signing Date: ____________
Agent Information

My agent's name: _________
Address: _________
Telephone Number: _________
Email address: _________
Agent's Powers

I have communicated my goals and wishes to my agent, who shall follow the instructions given in this document and the conversations we have had in preparing it. I grant my agent authority to make decisions about my health care according to these goals and wishes. If my instructions are unclear at any time, then my agent will decide based on what my agent believes to be in my best interests. My agent's authority to interpret my wishes and goals includes the following authority:
Provision of Life-Sustaining Procedures

My health care agent may not have life-sustaining treatment withheld or withdrawn from me, unless the principal is in a terminal condition or in a permanently unconscious state and a qualified physician determines that the principal is in a permanently unconscious state. Moreover, my health care agent may not have orally ingested nutrition or hydration withheld or withdrawn from me, unless provision of the nutrition or hydration is medically contraindicated, or unless otherwise provided in this document.
Effectiveness

This Medical Power of Attorney will become effective immediately.
Duration

This document shall end upon my death.

I sign my name to this medical power of attorney on this ____________ at ____________, Alabama.


__________________________
_________
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What's the difference?
  • Medical Power of Attorney: it gives an agent the authority to make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated.

  • Living Will: it allows an individual to state preferences for medical treatment, focusing on end-of-life decisions.

  • Advance Directive: it includes the instructions collected in a Living Will and in a Medical Power of Attorney.