Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Information and Resources

Questions & Answers: Advance Directives and End of Life Decisions

Preparing the Forms Must my advance directives be witnessed?

Yes, every state has some type of witnessing requirement. Most require two adult witnesses; some also require a notary. Some states give you the option of having two witnesses or a notary alone as a witness. The purpose of witnessing is to confirm that you really are the person who signed the document, you were not forced to sign it, and you appeared to understand what you were doing. The witnesses do not need to know the content of the document.

Read the instructions and the documents carefully to ensure that the witnessing is done properly.

Recommended Related to Healthy Seniors

10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Nutrition and Healthy Aging

Good nutrition is the cornerstone of preventive health and healthy aging. Yet as we age, dietary requirements change. Our caloric needs typically decrease. At the same time, we may need more of certain key nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.  Getting proper nutrition often becomes harder with age because of problems such as loss of appetite or difficulties chewing or swallowing food. That’s why it’s so important to talk to your doctor about nutrition. Here are questions you ...

Read the 10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Nutrition and Healthy Aging article > >

Who can be a witness?

All states require that your witnesses be adults. Beyond that, the requirements vary from state to state.

Generally, a person you appoint as your agent or alternate agent cannot be a witness. In some states your witnesses cannot be any relatives by blood or marriage, or anyone who would benefit from your estate. Some states prohibit your doctor and employees of a healthcare institution in which you are a patient from acting as witnesses. Again, read the instructions carefully to see who can and cannot be a witness.

What should I do with my completed advance directives?

Make several photocopies of the completed documents. Keep the original documents in a safe but easily accessible place, and tell others where you put them; you can note on the photocopies the location where the originals are kept. DO NOT KEEP YOUR ADVANCE DIRECTIVES IN A SAFE DEPOSIT BOX. Other people may need access to them.

Give photocopies to your agent and alternate agent. Be sure your doctors have copies of your advance directives and give copies to everyone who might be involved with your healthcare, such as your family, clergy, or friends. Your local hospital might also be willing to file your advance directives in case you are admitted in the future.

How can I be sure my advance directives will be honored?

Simply completing advance directives will not ensure that your wishes will be honored. These documents are tools to help the decision making process. Their effectiveness depends largely on the way you prepare your loved ones and other caregivers for their use.

To best protect your treatment wishes, you should do two things:

  1. Take the time to think your feelings through and state them fully, so that your advance directives truly reflect your treatment wishes.
  2. Talk openly about your wishes with your family, your friends and your doctor.

Don't assume that others will know what you would want. Research shows that families' and physicians' who guess about a patient's preferences often are mistaken. Talking with the people who might have to act on your behalf ensures that they understand your wishes, gives them a chance to ask questions, and lets you determine whether they will follow your wishes even if your choices differ from theirs.

 

WebMD Medical Reference from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

feet
Solutions for 19 types.
row of colored highlighter pens
Tips for living better.
build a better butt
How to build a better butt.
man with indigestion
How to keep yours at bay.
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
stressed working woman
And how to fix them?
brain scan with soda
Tips to kick the habit.
richly colored hair
What your hair says about your health?
Woman running
10 ways to boost your metabolism.
lone star tick
How to identify that bite.
young woman in sun
What to watch for.
Girl drinking orange juice
What's in your glass?

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.