DC End of Life Guide

Advance Directives 

Advance Directives are legal documents that allow you to make known your end-of-life care ahead of time. The District of Columbia recognizes your right to decide the terms of your own medical treatment and to assign a person to make those decisions when you are not able to do so. 

Here are some important questions to consider before beginning this process:

  • Is this document(s) state specific? No

  • Does this document(s) need to be notarized? No

  • Does this document(s) require witnesses? If so, how many? Yes / 2

  • Can you legally use Aging With Dignity's 5 Wishes DocYes

There is a single Advance Directive form for Washington, D.C. that you can download by clicking the button below:


(Source: Washington DC VA Medical Center)

Death with Dignity

Death with Dignity laws allow the dying more control of their death and end-of-life decisions. These laws allow terminally-ill, able-minded state residents to request and receive prescription medication to hasten their death.

On November 1, B21-0038, the Death with Dignity Act of 2015 passed by Council and awaits a final vote in December 2016.

Designated Funeral Agent

DC law supports the appointment of a designated funeral agent to follow through on your written personal preferences (see below) or make funeral arrangements on your behalf if no written preferences are indicated.

Dc state law section 3-413 obligates "Any competent adult may decide the disposition of the individual's remains after death and without the pre-death or post-death consent of any other person by executing a document, in accordance with this section, which expresses the individual's wishes regarding the disposition of his or her body."

The appointment of a designated funeral agent will override the next-of-kin's usual authority and let the citizen designate whom he/she wants to control the disposition of his body.

Financial Assistance

The deceased must have been a District resident prior to their death. Families asking for burial assistance will receive $800 toward burial or $450 toward cremation. Family contributions cannot exceed $2,000.

See our Financial Assistance Chart for more details.

Home Funeral

Home funerals, or family led funerals, are 100% legal in DC. Your family or appointed agent may care for the deceased and handle all your funeral arrangements and necessary paperwork (permits and certificates) without a funeral director.

Check with the National Home Funeral Alliance for up-to-date details on how to navigate home funerals in Washington, D.C. and when it is required to involve a licensed funeral director.

Personal Preference Law

Personal preference laws for body disposition obligate your survivors to follow your written [or verbal] personal preferences. This often goes hand-in-hand with designating a funeral agent to follow through with your funeral or body disposition preferences.

In DC, residents may make written directions for the disposition of their body along with a designated funeral agent. We always recommend outlining your funeral preference in writing and sharing them with your designated funeral agent, next-of-kin, or spouse, giving you the best chance of having them seen through or upheld in the courts.