Advance directive – the key terms

Eight Terms Relating to Advance Directives That You Should Know

Child and adult protection legislation makes it possible for a legally competent person to set out in advance their wishes and instructions in the event that they lose the capacity to make rational decisions due to an accident, serious illness, or infirmity related to old age. Here you will find the key terms relating to advance directives.

By exploring the topic of advance directives in a timely manner, you can ensure that you are in charge of the important decisions affecting your life before others do it ex-officio.

Advance Directive

The advance directive specifies how and by whom you want to be looked after if you become incapacitated. After a person has lost their capacity to make rational decisions, child and adult protective services confirms the roles of the person designated in the advance directive. There is no permanent supervision by the authorities. In the advance directive, a distinction can be made between personal care and financial care. Usually, the same person is designated for both areas.

Financial Care

Financial care involves the management of the affected person’s entire assets, their tax declaration, and their representation in issues relating to property law.

Personal Care

Personal care ensures the care and orderly everyday life of the affected person. It regulates the living situation and initiates all measures necessary for maintaining health, if no living will exists.


The representative is the person tasked with personal care and/or financial care in the advance directive, who will look after the interests of the affected person in the event of their incapacity to make rational decisions. It is recommended to always name a substitute representative in case the first person named is unwilling or unsuitable to assume the role, or resigns from it.

Advance Directive in One's Own Hand

The advance directive can be written in one's own hand. The place, date, and signature must be included. Handwritten changes and additions can be made at any time, but must be clearly marked.

Publicly Notarized Advance Directive

For extensive advance directives, the publicly notarized form is often used. This requires the involvement of a competent cantonal public official (e.g. notary).

How Does an Advance Directive Work?

Take a look at our explanatory video.

Child and Adult Protective Services (CAPA)

CAPA refers to child and adult protective services. If no advance directive has been prepared or if the legal options of family members are insufficient, CAPA will order a conservatorship. The conservator (usually a professional conservator) represents the person no longer capable of making a rational judgment and is supervised by CAPA. The conservator is obligated to manage the assets according to strict investment guidelines and requires the approval of CAPA for many transactions.


The conservator is a person appointed by CAPA to ensure proper legal assistance. The law distinguishes between different types of conservatorship: supported decision-making authorization (advisory function only), substitute decision-making authorization (legally valid representation, e.g. for asset management), co-decision-making authorization (for partial loss of capacity to make a rational judgment), and general conservatorship (for complete loss of capacity to make a rational judgment).