What are Advance Directives?

Advance directives give you a clear voice in the care you receive, even when you are no longer capable of making decisions for yourself. Advance care planning is not only for old age, and that’s a common mistake that is made in thinking of it as such. Discover answers to your questions and get access to state-specific information and forms you can download and use.

What are Advance Directives?

Advance Directives Let Others Know How You Want to be Treated

Think of advance directives as your ability to have a clear voice in the care you receive, even when you are no longer capable of making decisions for yourself.  Advance care planning is not only for old age, and that’s a common mistake that is made in thinking of it as such.   Couldn’t you suddenly become ill or injured?  If that happened, your family and doctors would be making decisions about your medical treatment.  Do they know what kind of medical care you want?  Only Advance Directives legally communicate your wishes.


(Click to See Answers)

At what age should you begin to fill out your Advance Directives?
While there is no hard and fast rule, there is plenty of advice that says:

  • Start completing your Advance Directives while you’re still healthy.  You can change your decisions at any time and update the documents to reflect those changes.
  • Most states consider persons 18 years of age and older as adults.  It is encouraged that all adults, as early as possible, talk with their family and draft Advance Directives.  The earlier the better.
Is an attorney required to record and make Advance Directives legal?
No.  According to NIH Senior Health, you do not need an attorney to fill out the papers.  Hospitals and doctors have the forms and can help you with the information.  Advance Directive forms may also be retrieved online.
Do you need to have a separate advance directive for each state in which you reside during the year?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, each state has its own advance directives forms and guides.  An advance directive in one state, therefore, may not be valid in another.  This situation most commonly occurs when:

  • You have mutliple homes in different states where you live at different times of the year
  • You travel for work and split your time between your home residence and offsite temporary housing
  • You live on the border of two states in which you spend time in both


% of adults 18 and older who have concerns about end-of-life care (HHS & GAO)


The % of adults 18 and older who have an Advance Directive (HHS & GAO)


The % of adults 40 and older who have an Advance Directive (IOM - Dying in America)

Watch this Short Video from NIH Senior Health.

Learn About Each of the Documents that are Part of an Advance Directive.

Now What?

Tools & Resources at Your Fingertips

The resources below give you access to FREE, nationally used databases from which you search and download state-specific forms and instructions to start the process of completing Advance Directives.  As pointed out by each of these agencies, it’s a good idea to take these completed forms to speak with your physician, and of course seek formal (legal) verifications as recommended by your physician.

Power of Attorney for Health & Living Will

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s searchable state data base provides you with the forms you need to complete your Advance Directives.  NOTE: There is no download for Do Not Resuscitate (DNR).  The form must be completed by/with your doctor, who has the form.  As relayed within CaringInfo’s material, even if a living will say DNR, EMS (paramedics) will attempt resuscitation unless there is a physician co-signed DNR.

Does Your State have a POLST?

A Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) Form is not a replacement for Advance Directives.  Not all states have POLST programs. According to the National POLST Paradigm, “only individuals with serious illness or advanced frailty near the end-of-life should have this form.”  Much more information can be found as you beging your search of the POLST online database.

Additional Valuable Tools & Resources

National institute on aging

NIA’s Advance Care Planning provides detailed information on scenarios, explanation of terms and a printable wallet card.


Medicare.gov gives you links directly to your state health department and instructions on what to do with your Advance Directives.

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