An advance directive explains your health care wishes if you aren’t able to communicate them yourself.
“Advance directive” is a broad category. There are different types of documents the fall underneath. Examples: living will, medical power of attorney (MPOA), DNR (do not resuscitate order), etc.1
Get a simple advance directive easily & for free
Advance directives are state-specific legal documents. They can be quite detailed, or they can be simple. If you need detailed, it’s best to get the help of a lawyer.
State statutory forms
If simple is all you need, most states have a template for free. These are called “statutory forms.” Find your state’s advance directive here. Choose your state from the dropdown.
Alternatively, eForms also has a list of state-specific, downloadable statutory forms, including some MPOAs.
PREPARE has a free online tool that walks you through creating an advance directive for your state, then providing a download at the end.
Are you a military veteran?
The VA also has an advance directive template you can use here.
Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA) vs. living will
According to eForms, a MPOA “lets a person select their preferred treatment options with the use of an agent to carry out their wishes.”
A living will, on the other hand, “allows a person to select their preferred treatment options without the use of an agent.“2
Advance directive vs. living will
A living will is a specific type of advance directive, typically used when you are terminally ill.
However, there are many unexpected circumstances not related to terminal illness, such as coma, stroke, or incapacitation due to an accident, in which you would be unable to communicate your preferences for medical care. 3 Therefore, having a more general advance directive in place is a good idea so the burden of those decisions don’t fall on your loved ones.
Do I need a lawyer for an advance directive?
“Not necessarily. A lawyer can help but is not required to create your advance directives. However, if you have a lawyer, you should give them a copy of your advance directive.”4
Can I change my advance directive?
Yes. In fact, it’s a good idea to review it regularly and make changes as necessary. Create a new advance directive if:
- Your health changes.
- Your medical care wishes change.
- You want a different medical representative, for example, if your spouse was your decision maker but you have since divorced.
If changes are needed, do not edit your existing advance directive. Instead, create a brand new one and destroy the old.
- Advance directive vs. living will: What’s the difference? (Nationwide) ↩︎
- Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA) Form (eForms) ↩︎
- Living wills and advance directives for medical decisions (Mayo Clinic) ↩︎
- Advance Care Planning: Advance Directives for Health Care (National Institute on Aging) ↩︎