Washington D.C. Living Will

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What Is a Living Will?

A living will, also called an advance directive, is a legal document that specifies an individual’s wishes regarding end-of-life care. People create living wills to prepare for a time when they might lose their ability to communicate.

Washington, D.C. living wills include how an individual would wish to be treated and the kinds of treatments or life support measures to receive or not receive.

The person facing cognitive or physical decline may be a caregiver for an individual with special needs individual. In this case, it may help to seek assistance from a special needs planning attorney. He will advise on how to care for the interests of the special needs person.

Experienced attorneys may assist the ailing person with their living will and the state laws that govern it. They may also help family members understand the living will and ensure its proper execution.

Benefits of a Living Will in D.C.

A living will is part of estate planning. If you are not able to make medical decisions, a close and trusted family member will serve as a healthcare proxy. A living will expresses your desired medical treatment when you are near death, incapacitated, or permanently unconscious.

Access to a living will helps reduce the emotional stress on your family. Your loved ones won’t need to make guesses on what you would want. It can give your family members peace of mind during challenging moments.

Living wills can also help cut uncertainties among family members, such as arguments over who understands better how a loved one should be treated.

Consulting asset protection planning attorneys may help you prepare a clear living will to prevent conflicts inside the family and the potential loss of assets.

Washington D.C. Living Will Laws at a Glance

Washington, D.C. allows individuals to state their desires on medical care through:

  1. Health Care Directives (living will), or
  2. Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.

However, the living will must meet the Washington State living will requirements to be legally valid. The following are some living will requirements in D.C.:

  • The person preparing the declaration must be at least 18 years old. They need to be mentally stable to comprehend the nature of signing

  • At least two people may witness the process of preparing the living will

  • Eligible witnesses should be unrelated to the testator and should not stand to inherit anything from them

  • All witnesses and the person filing the document must sign and date the living will

  • The declaration should be in the substantial form of §6-2422

An existing living will is eligible for change or alteration. Still, all updated and corrected copies need to be shared with the physicians responsible for the individual’s medical care, the will’s executor, the spouse, and trusted relatives.

Under code section 7-621, a living will is revocable by the testator. Circumstances that can lead to revocation of a living will include the following:

  • Destruction of the document

  • Provision of signed and dated written revocation

  • Verbal expression of intent to revoke in the presence of an adult witness of at least 18 years old

When Does a Living Will Take Effect?

A living will takes effect upon signage. But, medical professionals only use it once the testator loses the capacity to make health care decisions. The living will directive takes effect when:

  • A doctor ascertains that the patient has a possible terminal condition

  • Two doctors confirm that the patient is permanently unconscious.

A family member can become your healthcare proxy if you are incapacitated and have a living will. In a conflict, the testator’s expressed wishes will always precede a living will.

The power of a living will end once the patient dies. However, it may still be in effect if there are wishes regarding organ donation.

What to Include in a Living Will?

Here are some wishes that you can include in your living will:

  • Life-prolonging medical care: You can spell out medical procedures to be used to keep you alive. For instance, you can choose to be placed on life support or given a life-sustaining treatment.
  • Preferred palliative care: Specify desired pain relief medical decisions, such as pain management.
  • Organ, tissue, and body donation: You may add wishes to donate parts of your body upon death.
  • Tube feeding: You may decide to receive intravenous food and water when permanently unconscious.
  • Dialysis: This is vital if your kidneys no longer function. Spell out interventions to manage fluid levels and waste removal from your blood.

How Can Kevin C. Martin Attorney at Law Help?

Attorneys at Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, P.L.L.C. can prepare and draft the legal documents you need as part of your estate planning. Our D.C. wills attorneys offer legal advice about wills, estate planning, and estate protection planning. Contact our law office via email or call to book a free consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions


Who Should Get a Copy of Your Living Will?

Ensure that your family and healthcare agent get copies of your living will. Share a copy with your doctor and have it kept as part of your medical record. Additionally, you may put a copy of your living will somewhere it can be easily found. For instance, you can generate a digital copy that trusted persons can access.

How Much Is a Living Will?

The cost of preparing a living will varies depending on your attorney’s fees. However, creating a living will may incur zero costs if you do not hire a lawyer. Preparing advance directives is typically straightforward and can be done without a lawyer. However, it may be crucial to consult a knowledgeable lawyer in D.C. to help you understand the nuances of the law.

Does a Living Will Need to Be Notarized in D.C.?

Living wills do not need to be notarized in D.C. If your living will meets the legal requirements, it is legally valid. The Washington D.C. living will laws require your directive to have the signatures of at least two witnesses. The witnesses should be at least 18 years old and be unrelated to the health care directive testator.

What is the Main Drawback of a Living Will?

Living wills can have disadvantages, such as a limited application scope. They are only helpful in cases of incapacitation and the inability to communicate one’s medical care wishes directly. Another major drawback is relying on the attending physician’s compliance.

Can You Write Your Own Will in D.C.?

Under the D.C. living will laws, you can prepare your own health care directive. You can find free forms at local seniors’ centers, hospitals, or your state’s medical associations.