Pennsylvania End of Life Guide

Advance Directives 

Advance Directives are legal documents that allow you to make known your end-of-life care ahead of time. The state of Pennsylvania recognizes your right to decide the terms of your own medical treatment and to assign a person to make those decisions when you are not able to do so. 

Here are some important questions to consider before beginning this process:

  • Is this document(s) state specific? No

  • Does this document(s) need to be notarized? Yes

  • Does this document(s) require witnesses? If so, how many? Yes / 2

  • Can you legally use Aging With Dignity's 5 Wishes Doc? Yes

There is a single Advance Directive form for Pennsylvania that you can download by clicking the button below:


(Source: Aging PA)

Death with Dignity

Death with Dignity laws allow the dying more control of their death and end-of-life decisions. These laws allow terminally-ill, able-minded state residents to request and receive prescription medication to hasten their death.

In the 2015-2016 session, SB 549 and HB 943 were considered, but gained no forward momentum in the Judiciary Committee.

For more information, see Death with Dignity's Pennsylvania page.

Designated Funeral Agent

Pennsylvania law supports the appointment of a designated funeral agent to follow through on your written or verbal personal preferences (see below) or make funeral arrangements on your behalf if no written preferences are indicated. 

Pennsylvania Statute, Title 20, Chapter 3, Subsection 305, gives citizens the right to make a "statement of contrary intent," either verbal or written, that will override the next-of-kin's usual authority and let the citizen designate whom he wants to control the disposition of his body. 

Financial Assistance

Individuals who are recipients of Cash Assistance—Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), General Assistance (GA), State Blind Pension (SBP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or State Supplementary Payment (SSP)—at the time of death may receive burial assistance on behalf of the state.

See our Financial Assistance Chart for more details.

Home Funerals

Home funerals, or family led funerals, are 100% legal in Pennsylvania. Your family or appointed agent may care for the deceased and handle all your funeral arrangements without a funeral director.

Check with the National Home Funeral Alliance for up-to-date details on how to navigate home funerals in Pennsylvania. 

Personal Preference Law

Personal preference laws for body disposition obligate your survivors to follow your written personal preferences. This often goes hand-in-hand with designating a funeral agent to follow through with your funeral or body disposition preferences.

In Pennsylvania, your personal preferences can be indicated verbally or written (written is ALWAYS better) with your spouse, next-of-kin, or designated funeral agent.