Estate Planning 101

How to Make a Living Will in Washington D.C.

In Washington D.C., 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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Estate planning involves several crucial components, one of which is a living will. Also known as an advance healthcare directive, a living will outlines your healthcare preferences if you become unable to make decisions for yourself. It's crucial to understand that a living will is different from a last will and testament, which deals with the distribution of your assets after your death. Moreover, a living will is not to be confused with a living trust, which is a mechanism for managing your assets during your lifetime and beyond.

Living Will vs Power of Attorney

A living will and a Power of Attorney (POA) serve distinct yet complementary roles in a comprehensive estate plan. A living will focuses on healthcare decisions, detailing the type of medical treatment you would or wouldn't want if you're unable to express your wishes. 

Conversely, a POA enables you to appoint a trusted individual (known as an agent) to make decisions on your behalf. This can encompass financial decisions, healthcare decisions, or both, depending on the POA type. It's vital to have both a living will and a POA as they work together to ensure your wishes are respected in diverse circumstances.

Examples of a Living Will

A living will can encompass a range of healthcare decisions. Some examples include instructions on:

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

A living will is a vital piece of your overall estate plan, guiding your family and healthcare providers about your medical treatment preferences.

Cost of a Living Will

The cost of creating a living will in Washington D.C. can vary based on the method you choose. If you hire an attorney, costs can range from $200 to $500, depending on your situation complexity and the lawyer's rates. 

However, there are more affordable alternatives. Online platforms like Snug provide a straightforward and cost-effective way to create a legally valid living will. With Snug, you can craft a living will for a fraction of what it would cost to hire 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, typically when you are incapacitated due to illness or injury. While a living will outlines your treatment preferences, a Medical POA designates 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 it's possible to create a living will independently, hiring an attorney can offer benefits, particularly if your healthcare wishes are complex. An attorney can provide legal advice tailored to your situation and ensure the document meets all legal requirements in Washington D.C. 

However, attorney services come with additional costs. If you are comfortable creating a living will by yourself and your healthcare wishes are straightforward, online solutions like Snug can provide a cost-effective alternative. Snug offers an easy-to-use platform to create a living will that meets Washington D.C.'s legal requirements.

Notarizing Living Wills

In Washington D.C., 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 Washington D.C. are set by the state and can range from $5 to $10 per signature.

Witnessing a Living Will

In addition to notarization, Washington D.C. law requires two adult witnesses for a living will. These witnesses must be present when you sign the document. 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 an essential step in safeguarding your healthcare wishes and providing guidance to your loved ones. Whether you choose to use an attorney or an online platform like Snug, it's vital to create this document as part of your comprehensive estate plan.