Estate Planning 101

How to Make a Living Will in Virginia

In Virginia, factors such as notarization, the number of required witnesses, and the point at which the living will becomes effective are all governed by specific state laws. In this guide, we'll answer all the important questions.
February 4, 2024

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In the realm of estate planning, it's important to distinguish between different types of legal documents. A living will, also known as an advance healthcare directive, serves to outline your healthcare preferences should you become incapable of making such decisions yourself. It's vital to understand that a living will is distinct from a last will and testament, which addresses the distribution of your assets after your demise. Additionally, a living will should not be confused with a living trust, a tool for managing your assets during your lifetime and after your death.

Living Will vs Power of Attorney

Living wills and Powers of Attorney (POA) are two separate yet equally critical elements of a comprehensive estate plan. A living will is specifically geared toward healthcare decisions, outlining what kind of medical treatment you would or would not want if you become unable to express your wishes. 

On the other hand, a POA allows you to appoint a trusted individual (referred to as an agent) to make decisions on your behalf. This can encompass financial decisions, healthcare decisions, or both, depending on the type of POA you establish. It's essential to have both a living will and a POA as they complement each other and ensure your wishes are respected in various circumstances.

Examples of a Living Will

In a living will, you can state a wide range of healthcare decisions. For instance, you might include instructions on:

  • Life-prolonging treatments: You can specify whether you want treatments that do not cure you but can keep you alive longer, such as ventilators or feeding tubes.
  • Pain management: You can express whether you wish to receive or not receive pain medication. 
  • Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders: You can state your preference about whether or not you wish to be resuscitated if your heart or breathing stops.
  • Organ and tissue donations: You can articulate your wish to donate your organs and tissues after death. 

A living will thus becomes an integral part of your overall estate plan, providing guidance to your family and healthcare providers regarding your medical treatment preferences.

Cost of a Living Will

The cost of creating a living will in Virginia can differ depending on the approach you choose. If you decide to hire an attorney, costs can range from $200 to $500, depending on the complexity of your situation and the attorney's rates. 

However, more affordable options are available. Online platforms such as Snug offer a straightforward and cost-effective way to create a legally valid living will. With Snug, you can draft a living will for a fraction of the cost of hiring an attorney.

When Does a Living Will Go Into Effect?

A living will comes into effect when you are unable to make your own healthcare decisions. This often happens when you are incapacitated due to an illness or injury. It's important to know that while a living will outlines your treatment preferences, a Medical POA appoints a person to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. These two documents often work hand in hand in an estate plan.

Hiring an Attorney to Make a Living Will

While creating a living will on your own is possible, hiring an attorney can be beneficial, particularly if your healthcare wishes are complex. An attorney can provide legal advice tailored to your situation and ensure the document meets all the legal requirements in Virginia. 

However, attorney services come with additional costs. If you feel comfortable creating a living will on your own and your healthcare wishes are straightforward, online solutions such as Snug can provide a cost-effective alternative. Snug offers an easy-to-use platform to create a living will that adheres to Virginia's legal requirements.

Notarizing Living Wills

In Virginia, your living will must be notarized to be legally valid. The notary public verifies your identity and ensures that you are signing the document willingly and without coercion. Notary fees in Virginia are set by the state and can range from $5 to $10 per signature.

Witnessing a Living Will

In addition to notarization, Virginia law requires two adult witnesses for a living will. These witnesses must be present when you sign the document. It's important to note that the witnesses cannot be related to you by blood or marriage, entitled to any part of your estate, or directly financially responsible for your healthcare. 

Creating a living will is a significant step in safeguarding your healthcare wishes and providing guidance to your loved ones. Whether you choose to use an attorney or an online platform such as Snug, it's vital to craft this document as part of your comprehensive estate plan.