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Advance Healthcare Directive in New Jersey

What is an advance healthcare directive and why is it important in New Jersey?

An advance healthcare directive consists of two legal documents: a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care. These documents allow individuals to specify their healthcare preferences and appoint a healthcare agent to make medical decisions on their behalf if they become unable to do so. In New Jersey, an advance healthcare directive (AHD) can ensure that your wishes regarding medical treatment are respected and followed, even when you cannot communicate them.

Having an advance healthcare directive is important in New Jersey for several reasons.

  • It allows you to have control over your own medical treatment and ensures that your preferences are honored.
  • It provides peace of mind knowing that your loved ones will not be burdened with making difficult decisions on your behalf without knowing your wishes.
  • An advance healthcare directive can help avoid potential conflicts among family members or healthcare providers regarding the appropriate course of treatment.

What are the differences between a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is a document you use to appoint a person to make healthcare decisions for you in the event you cannot make them for yourself. This person is known as your healthcare agent or representative and is responsible for making the same decision you would have made under the circumstances.

A Living Will details under what circumstances you do or do not want to have life-sustaining treatment in the event you are unable to make your own decisions. This document guides your family and physicians to make sure your wishes are being honored.

What are the requirements for creating an advance healthcare directive in New Jersey?

For an advance healthcare directive to be legally valid in New Jersey, there are some general requirements that must be met. These include:


  • You must have the capacity to understand the nature and consequences of the document you are creating.
  • You should be able to communicate your wishes clearly and voluntarily.

Written Document:

  • The advance healthcare directive must be in writing.
  • It should clearly state your intentions regarding medical treatment and end-of-life care. An advance directive may be supplemented by a video or audio recording. N.J.S.A. 26:2H-56


  • Your signature on the document must be witnessed by two individuals who are at least 18 years old. Or, it can be signed by the declarant before a notary public.
  • The witnesses cannot be your healthcare agent, a relative by blood or marriage, or someone entitled to any part of your estate.


While not required by law, it is recommended to have the advance healthcare directive notarized to add an extra layer of authenticity and credibility.

How do I choose a healthcare agent for my advance directive?

Choosing a healthcare agent, also known as a proxy or surrogate, is an important decision when creating an advance healthcare directive. Your healthcare agent will be responsible for making medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so. Here are some factors to consider when selecting a healthcare agent:

Trust and Communication:

You should choose someone you trust implicitly and with whom you can openly communicate about your medical preferences. This person should be willing and able to advocate for your wishes even if they differ from their own beliefs.

Availability and Proximity:

Your healthcare agent should be readily available and easily accessible in case of emergencies or medical decisions that need to be made quickly. Consider someone who lives nearby or can easily travel to your location.

Knowledge of Medical System:

Your chosen healthcare agent should have a good understanding of the medical system and be able to navigate complex medical decisions. They should also be comfortable communicating with doctors and other healthcare professionals on your behalf.

Shared Values:

Select someone with similar values regarding medical treatment, end-of-life care, and quality of life. It is important that your healthcare agent understands and respects your beliefs and preferences.

Can I include specific medical treatments or preferences in my advance healthcare directive?

Absolutely! In New Jersey, you have the ability to include specific medical treatments or preferences in your advance healthcare directive. This allows you to outline your preferences for different types of medical interventions and end-of-life care.

For example, you can indicate whether you want to receive life-sustaining treatments such as CPR, mechanical ventilation, or artificial nutrition and hydration. You can also express your wishes regarding pain management, organ donation, and funeral arrangements.

You should be as specific and detailed as possible when stating your preferences to ensure that your wishes are accurately followed. However, keep in mind that it is not possible to anticipate every medical situation that may arise. It is a good idea to discuss your preferences with your healthcare agent and provide them with guidance on how to make decisions on your behalf if a particular circumstance is not addressed in the document.

Female declarants may include in an advance directive information as to what effect the advance directive will have if she is pregnant.

Are there any limitations or restrictions on what I can include in my advance healthcare directive in New Jersey?

While there are generally no strict limitations on what you can include in your advance healthcare directive in New Jersey, there are some legal and ethical considerations to be aware of. The following are some points to keep in mind:

Legal Compliance:

Your advance healthcare directive must comply with New Jersey law for it to be legally valid. This includes meeting the requirements for capacity, written documentation, witnesses, and notarization (optional).

Treatment Preferences:

You have the right to outline your treatment preferences; however, healthcare providers may have legal or ethical obligations that could limit their ability to follow all requested treatments. For example, if a treatment is considered medically futile or against accepted standards of care, it may not be provided even if specified in the advance directive.

Religious or Moral Conflicts:

If your advance healthcare directive includes treatments or preferences that conflict with the religious or moral beliefs of your healthcare providers, they may refuse to comply. So, have open and honest conversations with your healthcare agent and medical professionals to address any potential conflicts in advance.

Can I update or revise my advance healthcare directive if my preferences change over time?

Yes, you can update or revise your advance healthcare directive in New Jersey if your preferences change over time. In fact, you should review and update your AHD periodically to ensure that it accurately reflects your current wishes.

To change your advance healthcare directive, you create a new one that supersedes the previous one. You will need to clearly state in the new advance healthcare directive that it revokes any prior directives to avoid confusion.

Don’t forget to communicate any updates or revisions to your healthcare agent, primary care physician, and other relevant individuals involved in your medical care. Provide them with copies of the updated document so they are aware of your current preferences.

Can I appoint multiple individuals as my healthcare agents in my advance directives?

Appointing Multiple Healthcare Agents

New Jersey permits the appointment of multiple individuals as your healthcare agents in your advance healthcare directives. This can be beneficial as it allows for different perspectives and ensures that there are backup decision-makers in case one person is unavailable or unable to fulfill their duties. Of course, whenever you have different perspectives, you often have conflicts and disputes.

Co-agents or Successor Agents

One option is to appoint co-agents, where two or more individuals serve as equal decision-makers. This approach can work well if the appointed individuals have a close relationship and can make joint decisions, but you will want to clearly state how disagreements between co-agents should be resolved to prevent conflicts or delays in decision-making.

Considerations and Communication

Appointing multiple healthcare agents requires careful consideration and communication with all parties involved. You should select individuals who understand your values, preferences, and wishes regarding medical treatment. Discussing your expectations with each potential agent beforehand can help ensure they are comfortable taking on this responsibility.

A qualified estate planning attorney can help you create clear instructions within your advance directives regarding how decisions should be made, how conflicts should be resolved, and how communication among agents should occur.

Where can I find help with creating an advance healthcare directive in New Jersey?

New Jersey Department of Health

The New Jersey Department of Health is a valuable resource for individuals seeking assistance with creating an advance healthcare directive. They provide information and guidance on the process.

Estate Planning Attorneys

For more personalized guidance or complex legal advice regarding advance healthcare directives, you should consult with an estate planning attorney. They can ensure that your directive complies with New Jersey laws and addresses all necessary aspects.

So, depending on your situation and preferences, several options are available in New Jersey to assist individuals in creating an advance healthcare directive.

An advance healthcare directive is part of a comprehensive estate plan

Having an advance healthcare directive is important, but it is just a part of a comprehensive estate plan. Posternock Apell are your local estate planning attorneys in Burlington County. We can help you create an advance healthcare directive and guide you through the process of developing a complete plan to protect you now and your family in the future.

If you need assistance with drafting an advance healthcare directive or determining your estate planning needs, we can help. Schedule a consultation today!