Do I Need to Have My District of Columbia Living Will Witnessed or Notarized?

In Washington D.C., you must sign your health care directives in front of two witnesses.

In Washington D.C., you may describe your wishes for health care in a living will and medical power of attorney. In your living will (sometimes called a declaration), you can describe and document the kind of health care you would like to receive if you can no longer speak for yourself. In your durable power of attorney for health care, you can name a trusted person -- called your health care agent or attorney-in-fact -- to make health care decisions on your behalf in case you are no longer able to do so.

Sign Your D.C. Health Care Directives in Front of Two Witnesses

Whether you make one or two health care documents, after you create them, you and two witnesses must sign them to make them legal.

For your declaration, neither of your witnesses may be:

  • under the age of 18
  • related to you by blood, marriage or domestic partnership
  • your attending physician
  • an employee of your attending physician
  • an employee of a health care facility where you are a patient
  • the person who signed your declaration for you, if you were unable to sign it yourself
  • a person entitled to any part of your estate by operation of law or under your will, or
  • a person directly financially responsible for your medical care.

If you are a patient in a skilled care facility, one witness must be a patient advocate or ombudsman.

For your durable power of attorney for health care, neither of your witnesses may be:

  • under the age of 18
  • your health care attorney-in-fact
  • your health care provider, or
  • an employee of your health care provider.

In addition, one of your witnesses must not be related to you by blood, marriage or adoption and must not be entitled to any part of your estate by operation of law or under your will.

What to Do With Your Signed Health Care Directives

After you and your witnesses sign your documents, they are legally valid. Keep the originals in your files and give copies to your attorney-in-fact, if you named one. To ensure that you get the health care that you want, it’s a good idea to make your wishes widely known. So, you might also consider giving copies of your documents to your physician, your hospital, your HMO or other insurance plan, and trusted family members and friends.

Review your documents every few years to make sure that they still reflect your wishes. Also, consider making new documents if you move to another state, get married or divorced, or if your attorney-in-fact is no longer able to supervise your wishes.

Your properly finalized documents will stay in effect until you revoke them, if you ever choose to do so. You can revoke your documents at any time. The best way to revoke your documents is to do it in writing. If possible, also collect and tear up all copies that you may have distributed to others. Finally, tell everyone who knows about your documents that you have revoked them.

Learn More

Learn more about Living Wills and Medical Powers of Attorney.

Learn more about D.C.'s Living Wills and Powers of Attorney for Health Care.

When you make a health care directive with Quicken WillMaker Plus, it will conform to all of Washington D.C.’s laws about living wills and powers of attorney for health care. And it will print with plain English instructions that detail how to make it legal.

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