Advance Directives

advance directives

Life comes with many uncertainties.

Unexpected accidents and serious illness can occur at any age.

While making the decisions involved in funeral pre-planning is one element of responsible preparation, completing an advance directive is also critically important. Sometimes called advance care directives or advance healthcare directives, this legal document ensures that your healthcare wishes will be carried out in the future. Defined as "a written statement of a person's wishes regarding medical treatment," a properly signed and witnessed advance directive provides guidance for medical and health care choices in the event that you should be become incapacitated and can no longer make such decisions.

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man signing advance directive

Important things to know about advance directives:

  • Governing laws vary so be sure to obtain an advance directive that complies with your state’s laws.
  • You do not need an attorney to complete an advance directive.
  • If you reside in more than one state, you should complete an advance directive for each state where you spend a significant amount of time.
  • There are no time limitations on advance directives. A signed advance directive remains in force until a new one is completed.
  • Periodically review your advance directive to make sure it still reflects your desires. If it doesn't, don't try to amend it; simply complete a new one.
  • Paramedics and emergency medical technicians cannot recognize or honor a living will or medical power of attorney. They are obligated to do their best to stabilize the patient and get them to the hospital. When you are in the care of hospital personnel, your advance directive becomes valid.

Where to Obtain an Advance Directive Form.

There are many resources available online to assist and guide you in writing your advance directive. Your local hospital is a reliable source, as federal law requires every hospital to not only provide information about advance directives to people in their service area, they are also required to share valuable information about the related laws in your state. Your family physician may also have advance directive forms available.

You will need to have the advance directive witnessed and possibly notarized, depending upon the state in which you reside. If you don’t have access to a notary, you can find one at the American Society of Notaries.

Once your advance directive is completed, signed, witnessed, and notarized, you may wish to upload a copy to your state's advance directive registry. This service allows healthcare providers quick access to your advance directive should they need it. You can locate the advance directive registry for your state online or visit the website for the U.S. Living Will Registry.



Whether you need to plan a funeral for a death that has occurred or are seeking to preplan arrangements, our staff is always available to assist you. Please contact us anytime.

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Evan W. Smith Funeral Services

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Evan W. Smith Funeral Service - Wilmington
Phone: (302) 377-6906
201 N. Union St., Wilmington, DE 19805

Evan W. Smith Funeral Service - Dover
Phone: (302) 526-4662
518 S. Bay Rd., Dover, DE 19901

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