Advance Directives


An advance directive is a legal document that explains how you want medical decisions about you to be made if you cannot make the decisions yourself. An advance directive lets your health care team and loved ones know what kind of health care you want, or who you want to make decisions for you when you can’t. An advance directive can help you think ahead of time about what kind of care you want. It may help guide your loved ones and health care team in making clear decisions about your health care when you can’t do it yourself.

An advance directive is meant to help you plan ahead and let others know what kind of care you want. It is used to guide your loved ones and health care team in making clear decisions about your health care if you can’t make medical decisions by yourself. These medical decisions may include special actions or emergency care from your health care team.

Advance directives only apply to health care decisions and do not affect financial or money matters. The laws around advance directives are different from state to state. Talk to your health care provider (or your lawyer) about filling out your advance directive when you are still healthy, in case you become too ill or are unable to make medical decisions for yourself in the future.


Types of Advance Directives

The most common types of advance directives are the living will and the durable power of attorney for health care (sometimes known as the medical power of attorney).

There are many advance directive formats. Some follow forms outlined in state laws, others are created by lawyers or even the patients themselves. State laws and courts decide whether these documents are valid. All states and the District of Columbia have laws about advance directives. Be sure to know specific requirements of writing legal advance directives in your state.

Before you create an advance directive, you will want to talk with your health care provider, your loved ones, and at least one person that you may want to choose as your proxy or agent (substitute decision-maker). Tell them about your situation, wishes, and fears, because they are the ones who will help put your wishes into effect if you are unable to do so.


You can usually get advance directive forms from your state bar association, or from Caring Connection (part of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization). Additionally, when you are ready to fill out your advance directive, your health care team might be able to help.


If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Forge’s Client Services Coordinator, Janet Dees, at (205) 990-5367 or [email protected]. She can refer you to a pro bono attorney through the bar association. Si hablas español y quieres más información, por favor contacta a Yadira Robayna, al (205) 990-5375 O al [email protected].


Useful Resources:

Healthcare Advanced Directive form, courtesy of UAB

Prepare for Your Care

The Conversation Project

Five Wishes