What is an Advance Care Directive?

Many people, when thinking of their estate planning arrangements, will have at least thought about:

  • making a Will to direct how their assets in their estate will be distributed on their death
  • putting in place an Enduring Power of Attorney to manage their financial affairs they become unable to do so
  • appointing an Enduring Guardian to make decisions about their healthcare, accommodation and lifestyle if they cannot

but often, they will never have heard of an Advance Care Directive or a ‘Living Will’.

So what is an Advance Care Directive? An Advance Care Directive is a way inform others of your specific wishes in relation to your future care and treatment and identifying steps that you do and/or do not want taken if you become medically incapacitated and cannot state these wishes for yourself.

It is best to put these wishes down in a document and have it witnessed or signed, but it can be verbal.

An Appointment of Enduring Guardians and an Advance Care Directive are complementary powers and there is often no need for an Advance Care Directive at all if the functions of the Enduring Guardian are stated broadly or if there are specific directions given to the enduring guardian in the document appointing them (an Advance Care Directive can be part of the Appointment of Enduring Guardians).

The appointed guardian (and any medical practitioners) must act in accordance with any known Advance Care Directive unless it is clearly revoked or replaced by the directions in Appointment of Enduring Guardians.

People’s views on matters like life support, assisted ventilation, resuscitation, artificial nutrition/hydration and palliative care can, and often do, change over time so documents like Advance Care Directives should be updated when necessary so as to reflect a person’s most current wishes regarding their medical treatment.


Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to Advance Care Directives, estate planning, aged care issues, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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