Advanced Health Care Directives

Advanced Directives



Advanced Directives are legal documents written and signed by you that allow you to communicate decisions and wishes about medical care to family, friends and health care professionals in the event that you are no longer able to make those decisions. Advanced directives instruct caregivers and medical personnel when you are incapacitated, seriously ill or injured, in a coma, in the late stages of terminal illness or near the end of life.

By planning ahead, you can receive the medical care that you choose, avoid unnecessary suffering or treatment and relieve caregivers of the burden of decision-making in times of crisis or grief. An advance directive will also help reduce or eliminate confusion or disagreement about the choices you would want the person you have designated to make on your behalf.

Advanced directives should be considered by people of all ages including young adults. Unexpected situations occur at any age and it's important for all adults to prepare these documents.

Types of Advanced Directives


Living Will is a document executed by a person ("principal") declaring his/her wishes to physicians under two specific circumstances. It allows the principal to refuse certain life sustaining procedures when the principal's death is imminent due to a terminal condition or when the principal is in a persistent vegetative state. The Living Will does not apply in any other health care situation. It does not name a decision maker ("agent") for the principal.
 
Power of Attorney for Health Care (POAHC) is a document executed by a person ("principal") that names and authorizes another person ("agent") to make health care decisions for the person (principal) executing the document, consistent with the terms of the document and based on the wishes of the principal, effective when the principal is unable to make health care decisions.

Living Will vs Power of Attorney for Health Care

Living Will

Power of Attorney for Health Care

Document signed by individual giving instructions to physicians under certain circumstances

Document signed by individual (“principal”) appointing another individual (“agent”) to make health care decisions for the principal.

Becomes effective when two (2) physicians personally examine the individual and sign statement that he/she is “terminal” and death is imminent or is in a “persistent vegetative state.”

Becomes effective when two (2) physicians personally examine the individual and sign statement that he/she is incapacitated (not able to make health care decisions).

“Terminal” and death is imminent; or
“persistent vegetative state.”

Individual is incapacitated.

A Power of Attorney for Health Care is more comprehensive than a Living Will because it covers more situations.

Can revoke by destroying all copies, sign and date a written revocation, provide oral revocation with notice to doctor, execute new Living Will or revoke with Power of Attorney for Health Care.

Can revoke by destroying all copies, sign and date a written revocation, provide oral revocation with notice to doctor or revoke with Power of Attorney for Health Care.



Can be activated and deactivated depending on the capacity of the individual.


Power of Attorney for Finance (also known as Durable Power of Attorney) is a document executed by a person ("principal") that names and authorizes another person ("agent") to handle financial affairs for the person executing the document ("principal"), consistent with the terms of the document as expressed by the principal.

Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR) is issued by a physician's office and communicates to first responders or ER staff that the person's physician has issued a DNR order. Applies only to a person when an adult has a terminal condition or would suffer pain or harm from resuscitation or when resuscitation would be unsuccessful.

For additional information, contact the Wisconsin Guardianship Center at 1-855-409-9410.