Advance Directives and the Pennsylvania Advance Health Care Directive Form FAQ

This material is for general information, and is not legal advice. If you have specific questions about your personal situation, please consult your legal adviser.

I already have a will and power of attorney. Do I still need a living will and health care agent (a health care agent has durable medical power of attorney)?

Yes. While both are important, they're different.

A will tells people how you want to distribute your assets after you die. Your financial power of attorney helps with this.

In a living will, a type of advance directive, you make decisions for future medical care in case you ever became too sick to make decisions for yourself. A health care agent has durable medical power of attorney and is the person you choose to carry out your decisions.

Do I need to have my advance directive notarized (legally
making a document valid)?

No. In the state of Pennsylvania, you do not need to notarize advance directives.

What do I do with my advance directive after I fill it out?

Most importantly, talk with your loved ones about what your advance directive says.

Also, make copies of your advance directive to give to your:

  • Loved ones
  • Caregivers
  • Doctor

Be sure to take it with you when you go to the hospital.

What if I change my mind?

As you go through life, your end of life care decisions may change. This is normal, so be sure to review your advance directive every now and then.

If your wishes change:

  • Fill out a new advance directive and make copies.
  • Give your new advance directive to your loved ones and those involved in your care
  • Make sure to throw away the old copies.

Do I have to use the Pennsylvania Advance Health Care Directive
if I filled out a different advance directive?

No, you do not need to use the Pennsylvania Advance Health Care Directive form.

If your wishes have not changed, any advance directive approved for Pennsylvania is acceptable.

Will my advance directive be used for my decisions as soon as I write them down?


It's important to understand the advance directive acts only as guidelines, not as automatic medical orders.

If you were so sick and could no longer make decisions, your medical team would turn to your health care agent and the information you wrote in your advance directive for guidance. They would work together to decide the best course of action based on your decisions and what was happening to you.

Is the Pennsylvania Advance Health Care Directive the same as
the POLST?

No. The POLST (Pennsylvania Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment) is intended for people of advanced age or disease.

The POLST is a set of medical orders that provide very clear instructions on:

  • CPR
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Antibiotics
  • Tube feedings
  • Code status

In a crisis, your medical team would act upon these orders.

The Pennsylvania Advance Health Care Directive and other living wills act as guidelines only. No automatic actions are taken without the medical team and your health care agent working together to make decisions that you would want.

It's important for all adults — young or old, healthy or sick — to go through the advance care planning process and have an advance directive. Download the Pennsylvania Advance Health Care Directive Form (PDF).

​​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​

Contact Us

For more information, or to talk with someone about advance care planning, contact the UPMC Palliative and Supportive Institute at:


Download the PDF about advance medical planning (link opens a new window). 

For more information about advance directives, download Pennsylvania Advance Health Care Directive (PDF).​


UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences | Supplemental content provided by Healthwise, Incorporated. To learn more, visit

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

Pittsburgh, PA, USA |