Once you have thought about your wishes, it is important to write them down in a legal document. The following documents are called advance directives. Advance directives should be updated regularly and shared with your health care agent, loved ones, doctor, and hospital. You may complete one or both documents.

  1. Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is a legal document where you can select a health care agent to make health care decisions for you if you cannot.
  2. Health Care Directive (Living Will) is a legal document that tells your doctor what treatments you would or would not want if you were permanently unconscious or not expected to recover.

The Advance Directive includes both the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and the Health Care Directive, along with directions for how to complete it and make sure it is legally valid.

There is more information about each document below.

Advance Directive

 

  • Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare (Health Care Agent)

    One of the best ways to make sure your wishes are followed is to name a health care agent and have a conversation with them about your wishes for future health care. The person that you choose can make health care decisions for you if you cannot.

    When selecting a health care agent, there are a few important things to think about:

    • A health care agent should be someone you know and trust to follow your wishes about future health care. They must be over 18 years old, and cannot be your doctor or an employee of your doctor or health care facility unless they are also your close family member.
    • Before naming a health care agent, talk with this person to be sure he or she would be a good agent for you. The person should be able to answer “yes” to these questions:
      • Are you willing to take on this role and responsibility?
      • Do you understand my wishes for future health care?
      • Can you make the decisions I would want to make, even if you disagree?
      • Can you make important health care decisions under stressful circumstances?

    Watch a video that explains the role.

    If you do not select a health care agent in this document, Washington State Law sets the following order for health care-decision makers:

    1. State-Appointed Guardian (if any; this is rare and occurs if no one listed below is available to help make medical decisions)
    2. Health Care Agent with written and signed Durable Power of Attorney Health Care)
    3. Spouse or Registered Domestic Partner (even if separated)*
    4. Adult Children*
    5. Parents*
    6. Siblings*

    *If any group (like Adult Children) has more than one person, all the people in the group must agree to the same care. You can download a chart that illustrates the order here.

  • Health Care Directive

    A Health Care Directive is a legal document that tells your doctor what treatments you would or would not want if you were permanently unconscious or not expected to recover.

Legally Completing your Documents

It is important that once you fill out one or both of these documents that you make sure they are legally valid. The instructions can be found in the Advance Directive document and include:

  • Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care – Washington residents must have their signature on the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care form either acknowledged by a notary public or witnessed by two people. If using witnesses, they:
    • Must be at least 18 years of age and competent.
    • Must watch you sign this form and complete their section of the form below.
    • Cannot be related to you or your health care agent by blood, marriage, or state registered domestic partnership.
    • Cannot be your home care provider or a care provider at an adult family home or long-term care facility where you live.
    • Cannot be your designated health care agent(s).

Click here to find a notary near you.

  • Health Care Directive – Washington residents must have their signature on the Health Care Directive witnessed by two people who:
    • Must be at least 18 years of age and competent.
    • Must watch you sign this form.
    • Cannot be related to you by blood or marriage.
    • Would not be entitled to any portion of your estate upon your death.
    • Cannot be your attending physician or an employee of your attending physician or health care facility where you are a patient.
    • Cannot be any person who has claim against any portion of your estate at the time of signature of this document.

Please note that the witness requirements for the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care differ from the Health Care Directive, and that the Health Care Directive cannot be notarized. These laws are in place to ensure it is truly your voice that is heard if you are unable to communicate.

Honoring Choices PNW is here to support you

Honoring Choices PNW can help connect you with trained Advance Care Planning Facilitators free of charge across the state of WA who can help answer questions as you fill out these documents.

Click here to find a resource near you.

Share Your Wishes

Once you complete the written documents, it is important that you share your wishes and the documents.