Advance Care Planning FAQ

Below are some questions about Advance Care Planning that seem to come up often. Spend some time exploring this page and the follow-up questions within each tab to get a better sense of the process and value of Advance Care Planning. If you have further questions, visit our Contact page for information about how to get in touch with a WAHA team member.

Advance Care Planning (ACP) is a process to help you reflect upon, clarify, and discuss your health care wishes for medical care at a future time when you’re not able to speak for yourself. It involves two major choices:

  • Selecting someone you trust to make your health care decisions if you are incapable
  • Giving specific instructions about your care, goals, and values.

These are very important decisions, so it is best to make them after carefully considering your values, beliefs and experiences.

The process involves you, your loved ones, optimally a trained Facilitator, and eventually your health care providers.  Ideally it includes recording your wishes in a document and sharing it widely.


The Advance Directive (AD) is a document created as a result of Advance Care Planning discussions. It includes:

  • Naming your Health Care Agent/s—the person (ideally plus one or two alternates) who can speak and advocate for your health care choices in the event you cannot communicate. This is also known as Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.
  • Expressing your values, hopes, priorities and preferences for care. For example, what are your preferences for pain management? When would you want life-support treatment versus allowing a natural death?

A Living Will expresses your healthcare values and preferences for end-of-life care without naming someone—your Health Care Agent– to speak for you.

Many people assume their doctor or family will know their preferences for care, but that is not necessarily the case. The AD document is a gift you give your loved ones, as well as yourself.  If your loved ones are placed in a position of making medical decisions for you, they will not have to wonder what you would have wanted in a particular situation. They will be able to advocate on your behalf to the medical community.

An AD that meets Washington’s statutory requirements is legal whether or not you use an attorney.  Be sure to follow the directions for document completion. The WAHA form meets Washington requirements.

No, you do not have to notarize the AD. However, the witnesses of the AD must meet certain requirements (at least 18 years of age, not the patient’s Health Care Agent, nor related by blood, marriage, or adoption; would not be able to benefit from the patient’s death, is not the patient’s healthcare provider nor an employee of a healthcare provider directly serving them at the time of signing the document; and not directly financially responsible for the patient’s care).

WAHA offers a free notary service (for advance directives only) by appointment.  We will also provide witnesses, which is not the case with local credit unions and banks.

Once the AD is complete, then do the following:

  • Make a copy for your agent/s, speak with them about it, and give them a copy
  • Discuss your AD preferences with your medical provider. Give that person a copy of your AD for your medical file.
  • Discuss your AD with your family and friends. You may want to give them a copy of your AD. Encourage them to complete their own AD!
  • Send a copy to St Joseph Hospital, Medical Records.  They will create an account and store it for you even if you have never been a patient there.  Then it will be available if ever needed.
  • Store your original copy in a convenient location, not a safety deposit box! It is important that your family or friend can get to the original should it be needed.
A Health Care Agent, also known as Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, is a person you select to make medical decisions for you, only if you are unable to participate in your own medical treatment decisions. The person you ask to be your advocate should be someone who will take the time to learn what type of medical treatment you would or would not want, and would be willing to actively advocate for you.

No. What is usually called a “durable power of attorney” is actually a Durable Power of Attorney for Finance, who is authorized to handle your legal and financial affairs on your behalf. A Health Care Agent Designation is also called a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, who is authorized to make only health care related decisions for you.

WAHA Certified Facilitators are specially trained to help you clarify your personal values, beliefs and preferences for end of life care and choose a Health Care Agent that reflects those convictions. You can visit our Contact page to find out how to get in touch with a WAHA team member and schedule a conversation with one of our Facilitators.

The AD only goes into effect if and when you are too sick to communicate with your loved ones and medical team. For example, if you are in a coma from an accident or severe stroke, your Health Care Agent will be able to speak for you with your medical team. If you regain your ability to make and communicate medical decisions, your health care agent would no longer be asked to make decisions for you.

Take a copy of your AD with you when you travel.  In most states there are laws to protect and honor your wishes. If you live part-time in another state, you may want to consider filling out that state’s AD form and sharing it as you would here.

You may change your AD at any time.  It is a good idea to review your AD at least every five years, as your health condition changes, if your values about treatment change, or if your health care agent is no longer able to serve in the role.

If you do change your AD, be sure you inform your Health Care Agent, family, medical care provider and friends.  Destroy the old copies and give new copies to your Health Care Agent, St Joe’s, your medical provider, and family members.

It is true, you can download free advance directive forms from the internet. A facilitated conversation involves an appointment with a Certified Facilitator. The Facilitator is skilled in helping you clarify your personal values, beliefs and preferences for end of life care as well as choosing the best Health Care Agent. The meeting moves at your own pace, and there is no pressure to influence your treatment preferences.

It’s FREE. WAHA is a non-profit agency funded from a variety of sources. There is no cost associated with downloading the form or completing a facilitated conversation, though Donations are always welcome.

Most conversations last approximately 90 minutes. Usually, at the end of the first meeting you will have clarified your values and beliefs about medical treatment, and will have an idea of who you would like to be your advocate. (It may be possible to complete the entire process in one session, ideally with your agent present.)

For the second meeting, you will ideally return with your health care agent. This is a time to be sure the agent understands your wishes and clarify any questions. This conversation lasts approximately 60 minutes.

Visit our Contact page for information about how to get in touch with a WAHA team member and schedule your facilitated conversation.

Visit our Contact page for information about how to get in touch with a WAHA team member who can provide more personalized assistance.