Does an Advance Directive need to be notarized?


An advance directive is an important document that helps you with advance care planning and allows you to choose a community care facility, provide legal authority, and specify safety precautions in case of an emergency when you cannot make your decision. This document basically helps your loved ones understand what health care decisions you would make if you were not terminally ill. With an advance directive, you can follow your beliefs and desires even when unstable and unconscious. Therefore, it’s important to prepare this document for yourself.

Wondering how you need to create this document? Does an advance directive need to be notarized? What things do you need to consider before preparing it? Here we have discussed different aspects of the advance directive that will help you get your answers.

What is an Advance Directive?

An advance directive is a legal document that gives instructions for an individual’s medical care and will be only effective if they are not able to communicate their wishes. The two most common advance directives are the durable power of attorney for health care and living will.

Living Will

Living wills are legal documents that tell health experts how you want to be treated if you can’t make your health care decisions and financial decisions during emergency treatment. In this document, you can discuss what type of care or medical treatments you want, under what conditions your chosen treatment can opt for, and which ones you want to avoid.

Durable Power of Attorney for health care

It is a legal document that tells your health care proxy, an individual who can make your health decision for you if you can’t communicate them yourself. Your proxy, also known as an agent, representative, or surrogate, needs to be familiar with your wishes and values. A proxy can be chosen along with the living will or alone. Having a medical care proxy can guide you to plan for situations you can’t foresee, such as a stroke or a serious car accident.

Does an Advance Directive need to be notarized?

It depends on your state. Some states don’t require you to notarize your document, while few require notary signs. Also, people don’t need to create advance directive documents from scratch. According to federal law, every institution needs to keep forms for advance care planning. Local health care institutes need to communicate if any changes occur in the regulations of the advance directives to their clients or patients.

When you fill out the form and specify everything you need, your state will require the signatures of a notary public, witnesses, or both. The notarial act and signatures can be a linchpin between a document that is legally binding and valid.

Whether or not your home state contacts for an official notarization, every state needs these documents to be signed by witnesses. Many states also require you to notarize a document by a notary public and witnesses to sign the advance directive. Some states also require you to create a separate document for advance directives and another document to specify your proxy.

3 types of Advance Health Care Directives

As we have discussed, there are several types of advance directives; here are the most common ones you need to consider.

Living Will

When a person is unable to make decisions about their future medical care, a living will is a legal instrument that states those decisions. The living will guide your family or friends at the end of your life if you get permanently unconscious or terminally sick. The person’s health care wishes for medical care in these circumstances are spelled out in their living will. It can specify the circumstances under which a life-extension effort should be initiated or ended. This applies to medical procedures such as dialysis, life support, and tube feedings.

Two doctors must certify that you can’t make any decisions related to health or other things and are suffering from a serious health issue defined by your state law as permanent unconsciousness or terminal illness before your health care team can check your living will to guide medical decisions.

When drafting a living will, there are numerous considerations to make. These consist of the following:

  • You want to employ devices to help keep you alive, such as ventilators or dialysis machines.
  • You want CPR if a person’s heartbeat or breathing ceases.
  • If you are unable to eat or drink, you may request fluids or liquids (often by IV) and/or food (fed through a tube into your stomach).
  • You wish to get treatment for pain, nausea, or other symptoms, even if you are unable to make other choices (this is sometimes referred to as comfort care or palliative care).
  • If, after death, you wish to donate any bodily parts.

It’s crucial to understand that the person can take medical therapy as well as medications for pain, food, antibiotics, and other conditions, and mention that in the will. They will ensure you get comfort rather than only focusing on the cure.

Also, living will be changed or revoked at any moment. Every state has different living will regulations. Therefore, check the laws that apply to your particular state. Speak with your health care providers and families about your state’s rules if you reside primarily in more than one state. Additionally, find out from your state how often you need to update your living will.

Durable Power of Attorney

In a legal document known as a durable power of attorney for health care, you can designate a representative who will make all of your health care decisions if you are unable to do so yourself. A person’s doctor must certify that the patient is incapable of making their own medical decisions before a medical power of attorney can guide medical decisions.

Your agent or proxy can communicate with your healthcare team and other careers on your behalf and make decisions in accordance with the desires or instructions you previously provided if you can’t make your own health care decisions. Your proxy or agent will decide based on what they believe you would desire if your wishes in a particular situation are unknown. Your proxy cannot continue to make medical choices on your behalf if you regain the capacity to do so.

You should choose a proxy or agent you trust to carry out your instructions and who understands you well. Your agent or proxy be familiar with how you would make decisions if you could, and they should feel free to talk on behalf of you your health care staff and ask questions on your behalf. Make sure to fully communicate your wishes to that person. In case your first choice is unavailable or unwilling to act on your behalf, you may also decide to choose another person.

Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment or POLST

In certain states, a POLST is included in advance directives, whereas in others, it is a separate document. People frequently wonder why a POLST is necessary if you already have other advance directives, such as a living will.

In some areas, a POLST is also known as a MOLST (Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment). A POLST and other advance instructions differ in the following ways:

  • Specific life-threatening emergencies might require a POLST. For instance, you can be a healthy individual with advanced medical instructions requiring you and your healthcare provider to decide on the best course of action for this situation.
  • Your healthcare provider must sign your POLST. The majority of advance directives do not require a doctor’s signature.
  • You and your healthcare practitioner have previously decided on your course of treatment and care under these particular circumstances. Thus, you do not require a healthcare proxy or surrogate for a POLST.
  • Whether you are in the hospital, residential care facility, nursing home, your home, or hospice, a POLST stays with you. To draw the attention of medical emergency workers to their presence, POLST forms may be printed on distinctively colored paper. First responders might not have access to an advance directive.
  • A POLST form normally has front and back pages, while an advance directive may have several pages.

For those who might have some type of irreparable ailment, a POLST form is an ideal option for them. The POLST form prevents people from getting treatments they don’t want. Any younger person can make their advance directives, but a POLST may not be required if they are healthy.

Requirements for Advance Directives 

Advance directives should be in writing. Every state has different requirements and forms for creating legal documents. A form must be notarized or signed by a witness based on where you live. You can take guidance from a lawyer with the process. But it’s not a compulsory step.

Furthermore, you can find state-specific forms on different websites of several organizations, such as the National Hospice, the American Bar Association, Palliative Care Organizations, and AARP.

Make sure to get your advance directive checked by the doctor or your healthcare agent to make sure you have filled the form correctly. Once you complete your document, you need to do the following things.

  • Give a copy to your healthcare provider.
  • Keep the originals in an accessible but safe place.
  • Provide a copy to your healthcare agent.
  • Talk to your family members or any trusted person around you
  • Keep a record of who you have given your advance directives.
  • Discuss your healthcare wishes with family members. By having this conversation, you will ensure that your family members understand what you need, which will help you avoid conflicts and several other problems.
  • Carry a copy of the advance directive when you are traveling
  • Keep a wallet-sized card that shows you have advance directives and identifies your state and health care agent where the copy of directives can be found.
  • Include the requirements people will need to follow while filling out an advance directive form

How to prepare and notarize an Advance Directive? 

Step 1: Write a title and describe yourself

Label your document as your advance directive so that people can understand why you are giving the papers to them. You should introduce yourself, give your full name, and give your current address in the opening section of your advance directive. Use the main address if you have more than one. Make sure to mention that:

  • You are not operating dishonestly, improperly, or under pressure and are of sound mind.
  • Your wishes are clearly stated in this instruction.
  • When you are unable to make decisions about your own care due to illness or incapacitation, this advance directive takes effect.

In most places, you must be of legal age to make an advance directive, which is 18. This one supersedes any prior directives or living wills.

Step 2: Name your advocate

Tell the name of the person you’ve chosen to act as your advocate or representative. Include any identifying information, their full name, current address, phone number, etc.

Make a thorough choice for your representative. The majority of people pick their partner, sibling, spouse, or child. Consider selecting a close friend. If you believe your attorney would best serve your interests, you may even choose them.

Step 3: Specify your representative’s powers

Tell your advocate exactly what you want them to do.

You should specify that “if my attending or primary physician tells me that I am unable to make these decisions, my representative may make healthcare, custody, and medical treatment decisions on my behalf.” The majority of advance directives use terminology like this.

Step 4: Write specific instructions in detail

Your advance directive must specify your preferences for certain medical circumstances.

  • Are you interested in respirators or ventilators for life-sustaining medical care?
  • If your heart stops beating, do you want CPR?
  • Invasive surgery: Do you prefer diagnostic tests or invasive surgery?
  • Do you want kidney dialysis or other supportive equipment for your prolonged life?
  • How much relief from pain do you need?
  • Will you want feeding tubes for treatments that might save or extend your life?
  • How long will you tolerate remaining in a prolonged unconscious state, such as a coma or vegetative state?

Based on the types of your wishes, assets you have, and your other needs, you should also notarize the real estate purchase agreement, signature

Step 5: Declarant statement

Include a couple of sentences to express that you comprehend the document. Also, write a sentence stating that your state’s laws will control how the advance directive is honored should be included in this.

Step 6: Signature and witness page

A witness page and signature page are required. There must be two signatures: the notary and two observers.

The witnesses cannot be your doctor, your healthcare advocate, a staff member of your doctor, a healthcare provider, your present care, or anybody who will be entitled to a share of your estate in the event that you pass away.

Step 7: Notarization

Find a notary who can notarize a document after you’ve finished writing it. The notary appointment must be attended by both you and your witnesses. Wondering does a notarized document expire? Notarization of any document will not expire. You just need to choose the right individual for notarization.

Notarize an Advance Directive with PandaDoc Notary

In a nutshell, you need an advance directive not only to ensure your loved ones fulfill your wishes but also to guide your family and friend when you cannot help them. Similarly, notarize for family, friends, and yourself to ensure that the document is not misused or avoided when you need it to be followed for your healthcare decisions, funeral arrangements, and other healthcare matters. So, don’t wait and prepare your advance directive. PandaDoc can help you create a well-structured and properly designed, legally binding notarized document. So, don’t wait and contact PandaDoc today!