How to Prepare and Notarize an Advance Directive
An advance directive is one of the most important documents you can create. It allows someone to make your medical decisions if you can’t make them yourself. A designated representative becomes the decision-maker who ensures your wishes are carried out.
You Must Notarize an Advance Directive
It’s important to choose your designated representative carefully. It’s also important to prepare the document and notarize it correctly.
Do advance directives have to be notarized? Yes, and they also need two witnesses. Follow these steps to be sure your advance directive is a legal, binding statement of your wishes.
What Is an Advance Directive?
An advance directive is your way of making your wishes known if you’re unable to make your own decisions. If you become physically or mentally incapacitated, an advance directive spells out your wishes regarding the following.
- Life-prolonging treatments: Determine if you want these treatments that include breathing machines, kidney dialysis, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
- Do not resuscitate (DNR): This tells medical professionals not to perform CPR if your heart stops beating.
- Physician orders for life-sustaining treatment (POLST): This instruction concerns your wishes regarding artificial nutrition and hydration, commonly known as using a feeding tube.
- Persistent vegetative state: This is a permanent coma or unconscious state caused by injury or illness.
- Terminal condition: This term refers to any illness or injury that is incurable and in its terminal stages.
Types of Advance Directives
Advance directives are legally binding in every state. They sometimes go by different names, such as a living will, advance healthcare directive, healthcare proxy, or medical power of attorney. An advance directive template, such as the free ones you find online, will work in any state.
What are the differences between living wills and powers of attorney? Here is a brief explanation.
Living will: This states whether you want life-sustaining medical treatments when you become terminally ill, are in a coma, or other extreme medical situations. A living will takes effect while you are still alive.
Power of attorney: A power of attorney (POA) gives another person the power to make your life, financial and other decisions when you can’t. In many states, a general POA does NOT include the ability to make medical decisions. In those cases, you must also assign a separate medical POA.
Medical power of attorney: A medical POA is specifically for medical care. This includes the treatment you receive, whether you go into a nursing home, which doctors or hospitals you wish to use, and more. A medical POA can be separate from a general or durable POA, which gives another person the ability to make financial decisions for you.
Why Do You Need an Advance Directive?
Many people mistakenly think advance directives are only for older people. In fact, anyone can become incapacitated at any age.
Even if your incapacity is temporary, you need an advance directive. Once you recover, the advance directive is no longer valid. In the meantime, however, you need a trusted representative to ensure your wishes are met.
When might you need an advance directive? You will need one if you:
- Are in an accident and suffer a traumatic brain injury.
- Have a stroke that results in cognitive damage.
- Develop a terminal illness, including liver failure or terminal cancer.
- Show signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
- Require long-term rehabilitation from an illness.
Does an Advance Directive Need To Be Notarized?
In many states, you must notarize your advance directive. You will also need two witnesses besides the notary. Your witnesses cannot be your chosen advocate, current caretaker or anyone who may have a claim on your estate.
Regardless of state law, it is always a good idea to notarize any important legal document. Don’t take the chance that someone will challenge your advance directive or that a court will toss it out. To ensure the best chances of preparing a valid document, have it witnessed and notarized.
Notarization is a small step that can make a big difference when it’s time to act on your advance directive.
How To Prepare an Advance Directive
There are standardized forms available for free from online legal companies. In most cases, your advance directive will include:
- Information about yourself, including your full name, current address and phone number.
- Designation of your healthcare advocate or representative.
- Powers you assign to your healthcare advocate.
- Instructions for specific medical situations.
- A witness and notary signature page.
Here are the steps in detail.
Write a Title
Label your document as your Living Will and Advance Healthcare Directive.
The first part of your will should state who you are, your full name, and your current address. If you have more than one address, use the primary one. Be sure you state that:
- You are of sound mind and not acting under fraud, undue influence, or duress.
- This directive stands as a testament to your wishes.
- This advance directive becomes active when you cannot direct your own care because of illness or incapacity.
- You’re of legal to create an advance directive, which is 18 in most states.
- This directive supersedes any previous directives or living wills.
Name Your Advocate
Give the full name of the person you select as your advocate or representative. Include their full name, current address, phone number, and any identifying information.
Choose your representative carefully. Most people choose their spouse, partner, sibling, or child. You may want to choose a close friend. You can even choose a lawyer if you feel your lawyer will best represent your interests.
Describe Your Representative’s Powers
Spell out what you want your advocate to do.
You should include wording that your representative can make “healthcare, custody and medical treatment decisions on my behalf if my attending and/or primary physician determines I am unable to make these decisions.”
This is the typical language in most advance directives.
Outline Specific Instructions
Your advance directive must include your wishes for what you want in specific medical situations.
- Life-sustaining medical treatment: Do you want respirators or ventilators to help you breathe?
- CPR: Do you want CPR if your heart stops beating?
- Invasive surgery: Do you want invasive surgery or diagnostic tests?
- Life-prolonging treatments: Do you want kidney dialysis or other supportive machinery?
- Pain relief: How much pain relief do you want?
- Life-sustaining treatments: Will you want feeding tubes?
- Coma or vegetative state: How long will you accept staying in a persistent unconscious state?
Include a paragraph stating that you fully understand the document you are signing. This should include a phrase stating that the laws of your state will govern how the advance directive is honored.
Witness and Signature Page
You must include a witness and signature page. You need two signatures:
- A notary.
- Two witnesses. The witnesses cannot be your healthcare advocate, your physician, an employee of your physician, a healthcare provider, your current caretaker, or anyone who will have a claim on your estate if you die.
Note: Do not sign the advance directive until you and your witnesses are in front of a notary.
Once your advance directive is complete, your next step is to find a notary who can sign and seal it. You and your witnesses must all be at the notary appointment.
How To Notarize an Advance Directive
The last step in creating your advance healthcare directive is finding a licensed notary public.
Your notary must be in good standing with a valid, state-issued license. You have the right to see the license and the seal.
Where do you find a notary? You can often find notaries at banks, real estate offices, tax preparation offices, and other businesses that deal with legal documents.
Mobile notaries: Mobile notaries will come to your home, but they are usually only available in rural areas where notaries are hard to find.
Online notaries: Online notaries are available 24-7. You don’t even have to leave your house to use an online notary service.
Can a Notary Notarize an Advance Directive?
Any notary public can notarize your advance healthcare directive. If you’re using an online notary platform like OneNotary, you can be sure the notary has a valid license and has been background-checked.
Does an Advance Directive Need To Be Notarized To Be Valid?
Notarization gives your documents more legal authority. A notary public holds a license that asserts their integrity and the full trust of the state. Notarization ensures transparency and legal validity.
Notaries are not lawyers, and they cannot tell you if the document you’re signing is legally valid. They can only ensure your signatures are valid.
How To Notarize Your Advance Directive Online
The fastest, easiest way to get any document notarized is through an online notary platform like OneNotary. You can find notaries who are available when you are, and you can do it all from the comfort of your home or office.
It’s easy to get started.
- Register for a free account at OneNotary.
- Request a notary appointment at a time that’s convenient for you.
- Be sure you have your witnesses with you.
- When the appointment begins, download your advance directive.
- The online notary will verify your identity and notarize your signature. They will then do the same for your witnesses.
Protect Yourself with an Advance Directive
An advance directive is an important legal document that could determine your future medical care. Prepare it carefully and have it properly notarized to ensure it is valid and binding.