Breaking New Ground with ABA's Healthcare Directive

The American Bar Association’s healthcare directive, Giving Someone Power of Attorney for Your Health Care: A Guide with an Easy-to-Use, Legal Form for All Adults, combines the legal requirements for most states into a single document that most people throughout the country can use.

Research showed that instructions about end-of-life treatment choices, provided by relatively healthy adults long before they face serious illness, are often dated and too vague to be of guidance when tough decisions must be made. After rolling up their sleeves and getting assistance from legal counsel nationwide, staff at ABA settled on language that would help meet their goal of developing a form that would be sufficient in most states.

We made sure that the final language and design were easy to understand. We designed and created easy-to-read documents that were clear, inviting, and legally sound. As a result, ABA has published a single valid form.

According to ABA’s website:

“Users of the form will notice that the instructions for who can serve as one’s health care agent and who must witness the document are fairly detailed and extensive. That is because state law requirements vary considerably, so combining all those requirements into one form results in a longer list of requirements than exist in any one state.

The positive result is that users almost everywhere can use a single valid form. Only one other nationally distributed health care advance directive has sought to meet the legal requirements in all or most states.”

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ClearMark Award Winner for Best Legal Document

The ClearMark awards honor the best in clear communication and plain language, celebrating documents and web sites from government, nonprofits, and private companies that succeed in communicating clearly. ClearMark Award Logo

What did the judges say?

  • The airy form itself is a relief from the density that afflicts so many forms.
  • The writing expresses complex considerations without overwhelming. The thinking is tough-minded, but the writing is never intimidating. That’s quite a feat.
  • It has the big three: meaty content; strong, visible organization; and effective wording.
  • The instructions and form are almost fun to work through.
  • The layout and wording show great attention to helping users navigate the document and understand the words. For all its details, the document never overwhelms, because it is presented in well-worded, visually attractive units.