A Living Will provides instructions to health care providers in case you become unable to direct your own care. A proper living will is at least two documents: a set of instructions to let health care providers know your wishes (known as an “advance directive”) and a document which gives someone else the right to make decisions for you when you cannot (a “durable medical power of attorney”).

A durable power of attorney is a fairly simple document. A form is available for download here.

It’s very important to think carefully who you want to give this power to. In many cases, a friend may be more appropriate than a blood relative. It’s also very important to talk with this person in detail about what your wishes are.

Fill out the form in the presence of two witnesses. None of the witnesses may be your health care provider or an employee of the health care provider. At least one of the witnesses must be unrelated by blood, marriage, domestic partnership or adoption, and must not be entitled to inherit from the estate.

After it has been signed by you and the witnesses, place the form in a safe place that is easily accessible in case it’s needed. Be sure to tell the person named as power of attorney as well as other close friends and relatives about the location and existence of the form. If you ever want to revoke the form, write “REVOKED” across it in pen in large letters, along with the date. You can then make a new one if you like.

Along with your medical power of attorney, you should write your wishes for how to be treated in a separate document called an advance directive. While an attorney is not strictly necessary in the District of Columbia to execute an advance directive, they are complex documents and a lawyer can help you craft one that meets your desires. We also can electronically store your living will and provide you with a wallet card that will allow doctors to access it in case of emergency. Contact us if you would like more information.

Note:

While we do provide a medical power of attorney form as a public service, Talos Law does not provide free forms for advance directives. They are complex documents that are best filled out with the help of a professional.

If you’re looking for a free or low-cost advance directive that you can fill out without the guidance of an attorney, a Google search will yield several options. We urge you to look very carefully over any forms you download and make sure that they enable you to express your wishes clearly and without ambiguity. If practical, find an attorney experienced in writing advance directives to review the final document.