Advance Directives for Funerals: Six Important Facts Everyone Should Know

Outlining end-of-life and death care wishes may seem unsettling at first, but many people find it to be a rewarding process that also brings tremendous peace of mind.

By creating an advance directive, it ensures that your wishes are legally protected at the end of your life. Here are six important things to know about advance directives.


What does an advance directive do?

An advance directive sometimes referred to as a ‘living will’ or ‘healthcare power of attorney’, is a legal document that allows people to express their wishes for medical care if should they become incapacitated and unable to speak for themselves. It is typically concerned with end-of-life care, which may involve decisions such as:

  • Whether or not you want to be connected to life-extending machines such as breathing machines or dialysis machines
  • Whether or not you want to be resuscitated if your heart stops
  • Whether you wish to be tube fed if you cannot otherwise feed yourself
  • Whether you wish to be an organ donor


It is vastly different from a last will and testament.

While some states call these documents ‘living wills’ they are not the same as a last will and testament, which is used to legally specify how your assets should be treated after your death. A living will is a healthcare-oriented document and a last will and testament is a financial document.


Advance directive forms vary by state.

Advance directive forms generally follow the same basic rules, but small details do vary from state to state. For that reason, it is important to use the legally recognized form for your state. If you reside in more than one state, complete an advance directive for each state in which you spend a significant amount of time. You can download the applicable advance directive template for your state if you wish to complete it yourself, although experts strongly recommend working with an estate law attorney to ensure accuracy and proper execution.


There are no time limitations on advance directives.

A signed advance directive remains in force until a new one is completed. For that reason, it is wise to review your advance directive periodically to make sure it still reflects your desires. It’s advisable to do so every ten years, if your marital status changes, or if you receive a medical diagnosis that may impact your end-of-life care preferences. Once you’ve completed a new form, be sure to destroy all copies of your old directive and distribute new copies to your medical providers, your healthcare agent/proxy, and anyone else with whom you shared your original directive.


They aren’t just for the elderly.

Most people think advance directives are designed for seniors, but adults of all ages can benefit from these legal documents. Anyone at any age can suffer a life-threatening injury or become seriously ill. Traffic accidents, sports mishaps, and unexpected ailments can cause young, otherwise healthy adults to become unable to make their own decisions about their health care. By creating an advance directive, it takes some of the burdens off your loved ones during an extremely difficult time.


In Delaware, you can designate a funeral agent.

Delaware law supports the appointment of a designated funeral agent to follow through on your written personal preferences or make funeral arrangements on your behalf if no written preferences are indicated. The funeral agent will be authorized to make decisions such as:

  • How to handle your body after death (burial or cremation)
  • Whether to hold a funeral or memorial service
  • Whether your funeral should follow religious or cultural customs
  • Where the services will take place

Whether you are helping a loved one or working on your own estate plan, an advance directive is an essential component. It makes it easier for your family in the event of an emergency because they will not have to guess what you would want or feel badly about the decisions they make on your behalf. It is a helpful legal tool that gives you and your loved ones greater peace of mind.

If you need more information about advance directives, are preplanning a funeral service, or wish to speak with a compassionate funeral counselor about the loss of a loved one, we are here to help. Please contact us anytime.


About Evan W. Smith Funeral Services: Since 2009, residents of Wilmington, Dover, and the surrounding Delaware community have relied on the caring staff at Evan W. Smith Funeral Services to help them through their darkest hours. Family-owned and operated, the company offers an array of elite funeral care services, including traditional funerals, cremations, memorials, pre-planning, and more. With decades of experience in caring for families from all cultural backgrounds and diverse walks of life, Evan W. Smith Funeral Services is committed to creating memorable, uplifting experiences that always exceed expectations. For more information, please visit

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