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Living Wills in Virginia

Despite its name, a living will is not the same type of document as a last will and testament. Rather, the purpose of living wills in Virginia is to communicate your wishes regarding healthcare. A living will in Virginia is an advanced directive that allows you to express your wishes regarding the types of medical treatment you do or do not wish to receive. Contact a compassionate trusts and estates attorney as soon as possible.

What Does a Living Will Typically Contain?

A living will typically addresses medical issues such as:  

  • The administration of life-prolonging procedures  
  • Artificial hydration and nutrition 
  • Pain management during the course of care for a terminal illness  
  • Anatomical gifts  

If there are specific medical treatments to receive due to moral, religious or other beliefs in their living will.  

Requirements of a Valid Living Will 

Living wills are legally enforceable documents in Virginia. In Virginia, a living will must be signed by a competent adult in the presence of two subscribing witnesses.  In most scenarios, a living will should be in writing. There is an exception for terminally ill patients to create an oral living will by communicating their wishes to their physician in the presence of two witnesses.  

A living will only becomes an operative document when an individual becomes incapacitated and are unable to communicate their wishes regarding medical treatment. If someone changes their mind about the contents of a living will, the individual may revoke it or replace it with a new document at any time. 

Benefits of a Living Will 

Without living wills in Virginia, the individuals loved ones may not be aware of their wishes regarding medical care. Medical treatment can involve very personal decisions and it is important to communicate their desires so that they will be honored. 

Without a living will or health care power of attorney, a guardianship proceeding may become necessary if family members and loved ones disagree on the best course of medical treatment for them. Guardianship proceedings can be costly and stressful for everyone involved. Having a properly executed living will and health care power of attorney can avoid court involvement. 

Distributing Living Wills in Virginia

Virginia residents may choose to store their living will and other health care directives with the Virginia Advance Health Care Directive Registry. The Registry is a convenient way to store your important healthcare documents in a secure database. In addition, you may wish to give copies of your living will and health care power or attorney to your doctors and designated agents or family. 

Even if you do not suffer from a chronic medical condition, accidents happen that place otherwise healthy people into the hospital. One way to ensure that your wishes will be known is to have a living will in place before you are faced with a medical emergency. If you are interested in preparing a living will or other advance directives, please schedule a consultation with one of our estate planning attorneys.