Writing a Living Will or Advance Care Directive is just one step in getting your affairs in order

An Advance Care Directive is also known as a Living Will


An Advance Care Directive (also known as a Living Will or ACD) is a legal form that outlines a person’s values, beliefs and choices for medical treatment and other care should they find themselves not competent to make or communicate their decisions for themselves.

They come in different formats and sizes, from a 2-page sheet to a 10-page booklet that provides an explanation as you go.

They are used to help guide nominated Enduring Guardians, next-of-kin and loved ones, palliative care support staff, doctors and other medical staff to respect the person’s choices.

Usually, a ‘person responsible’ is nominated in the Directive to ensure the choices outlined in the directive are followed through.

An Advance Care Directive comes under different laws in each state/territory in Australia, but essentially, the legal requirements are the same. If you are unsure about whether you have filled in your Directive correctly, approach a solicitor to ensure that it is consistent with state/territory requirements.

An Advance Care Directive is likely to stand up to legal scrutiny if:
The subject of the ACD was of sound decision-making
capacity* when it was written.

The document is clearly written on an Advance Care Directive form (in South Australia it must be written on the official form provided by the SA government).

It includes specific details about treatments the subject would accept or refuse.

It is current and relates to the current medical problem.

The subject was not influenced by anyone when the Directive was written, and it is witnessed by an independent person (not your GP or person responsible for you healthcare).

Proving Capacity*
You must prove to your witness
at the time of signing that you understand and can foresee the effects of any decisions that you make.

You must be able to show that you are voluntarily making the decisions about your health), and

you must be able to communicate these decisions to the witness.

A healthcare professional may be more likely to honour the terms of an ACD if:
They have actively taken part in discussions of advance care and treatment preferences with the patient or can communicate with medical staff who have; they are aware of its existence well in advance of its use, and patients, guardians and designated decision-makers keep up ongoing communication with healthcare professionals about the contents of an ACD and the values and convictions behind it.

Where to get an Advance Care Directive

The best place to get an Advance Care Directive is with your regular doctor, as you will want to go through it with them so they can explain the consequences of your choices and also so they can understand the reasoning for the choices you have made. They will be more willing to support you in your choices if they understand why you  have made them.

If your regular doctor does not have an Advance Care Directive form to give you, ask them to find one for you, because we need to help educate those doctors who don’t see this type of planning as an essential part of their service.

You can often purchase forms from Australia Post outlets or from your local newsagent. You may have to ask to have them ordered, but it’s a great option if you don’t have access to a printer.

‘My Health, My Future, My Choice: An Advance Care Directive for New South Wales’  is a simple guide in booklet in PDF form that explains why you need an advance health care directive, giving life examples and providing 2 blank copies of a 4-page Advance Care Directive plus a wallet card to notify people that an advance care directive or living will exists. You can download it for free by clicking on the link above. You can then print it out yourself, or you can purchase an already printed version from them retails for $16 including postage.

Our Living Well; Dying Well newsletter provides information and links through to free forms available for the state or territory in which you live. Sign up here to receive the newsletter free or buy The Rest Easy Kit, which includes this information as a bonus. You can also access our Glossary of Terms here if you are not sure of any of the terms we’ve talked about.