Delaware: Every Legal, Medical, and Estate Planning Document You Need

Here's a complete guide to every critical medical, legal, and estate planning document and relevant state law for anyone living in Delaware. Download what you need and get started with Pillar to organize all of your most important documents in one safe, secure, easy-to-use online storage solution

February 2, 2021


Delaware was the first to ratify the U.S. Constitution in 1787, and is still known today as the “First State”. Delaware has a lot of appeal to a lot of people and corporations, thanks in part to its unique state tax laws. In fact, 65% of the world's Fortune 500 companies are incorporated in Delaware.

In addition to its favorable tax conditions, Delaware’s unique Court of Chancery is set up to quickly and expertly handle corporate legal disputes by specialized judges. More than that, Delaware culture has developed to place a great honor on the competency of this court. Add in a backdrop of natural majestic beauty, and charming beach towns rich with colonial history, it’s easy to see the appeal of this “Small Wonder” of a state. Here you will find a compilation of legal forms and helpful links for Delawareans legal, financial and medical record needs.

Essential Delaware Medical State Laws & Forms

Delaware Medical Record Laws

Doctors in Delaware are required to retain patients’ medical records for at least 7 years beyond the date of the last entry, while hospitals must keep records for at least 5 years.

To request a copy of a medical record, submit a written request to the health care provider listing:

  • Your name and contact information
  • Any previous names, if applicable
  • Date of birth (or medical record number)
  • Date(s) of treatment or service
  • Specify which records you’d like (entire record or specific parts)
  • Date of request
  • Signature

Note that the provider may charge a fee for providing hard copies of your record, but you have the right to view them at no charge. For more information, refer to this handy Guide to Medical Records Rights in Delaware.

Delaware Organ Donor Registry

Sign up to be an organ and tissue donor at the National Donate Life Registry or at the Delaware DMV when applying for or renewing a driver license or ID card. For more information about organ donation, go to organdonor.gov.

Advanced Directive (Living Will) and Delaware Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment (DMOST)

Delaware’s Advance Healthcare Directive, also called a Living Will, is a legal document which allows Delawareans to name a healthcare “agent” or proxy to make medical decisions, should they become incapacitated. It can also be used to record wishes regarding end-of-life care, and allows for organ donor designation, if desired. 

Advance Directives must be signed by two adult witnesses who are not related to you, not beneficiaries, and have no financial responsibility for your care. If you reside in a long term care facility, the witness cannot be employed by or associated with the facility, and at least one of the witnesses must be an Ombudsman or Delaware Public Guardian.

Delaware Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment (DMOST) is designed to improve quality of care at the end of life by creating a framework for the individual’s preferences regarding life-sustaining treatment, and CPR, to be honored. It should be used when the person’s healthcare provider “would not be surprised if they died within the next year”. It is different from, but used in conjunction with, the Advanced Directive. The DMOST is a doctor’s order and must be signed by the doctor to be valid.

Delaware Legal & Estate Planning Resources

How to Create a Will in Delaware

The Delaware Register of Wills recommends that Delawareans set up a will in order to maintain control over how property is distributed after passing. To be valid in Delaware, a will must meet certain requirements. 

  • Will maker must be at least 18 and of sound mind and memory
  • All wills must be in writing. Holographic (handwritten) wills are recognized if other requirements are met.
  • Will must be signed
  • Will must be witnessed by at least two adults. Unlike many states, Delaware does allow beneficiaries to act as a witness.
  • Notarization is recommended, but not required.

Refer to the Register of Wills Informational Brochure for a wealth of information about setting up a will in Delaware. Read our comprehensive guide to learn more about how to set up a will.

Delaware Statutory Trusts

Delaware is one of the few states to have a statutory trust law, which has many advantages over common law trusts:

  • Security
  • Flexibility
  • Privacy
  • No tax

Delaware doesn’t require trust agreements to be filed, so the details of the trust, including the parties and their responsibilities, can remain private. There are very few limitations as to what a trust can or can’t entail, so it’s very flexible and customizable. The Delaware Statutory Trust Act also protects the trust’s assets from creditors seeking to obtain property from any of the trust’s owners. There is also no franchise or income tax in Delaware.

These are some of the reasons that this tiny state is known worldwide as one of the best places to form a company headquarters.

Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates 

To order copies of birth, marriage or death certificates in Delaware, submit the proper application to the Office of Vital Statistics either online, via mail or in person.

Online

There are two online options. GoCertificates and VitalChek both charge a fee for their service in addition to the $25 fee to the state.

In Person

New Castle County:

University Plaza-Chopin Building
258 Chapman Rd.
Newark, DE 19702

302-283-7130

Kent County:

Jesse S. Cooper Building
417 Federal Street
Dover, DE 19901

302-744-4549

Sussex County:

Adams State Service Center
546 S. Bedford St.
Georgetown, DE 19947

302-856-5495

Note that birth records become public after 72 years, marriage records at 50 years and death records at 40 years. The Delaware Public Archives is a good place for genealogists to find information about family histories.

Delaware Digital Estate Planning Laws

In 2014, Delaware became the first state to pass a law (the “Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act”) granting heirs or executors of an estate to take control of digital accounts and devices. 

“A fiduciary with authority over digital assets or digital accounts of an account holder under this chapter shall have the same access as the account holder, and is deemed to (i) have the lawful consent of the account holder and (ii) be an authorized user under all applicable state and federal law and regulations and any end user license agreement.”

What is considered a digital asset will likely continue to evolve as further technologies are innovated. Currently they include:

  • Banking, investment and brokerage accounts, and other online financial accounts, such as PayPal or Venmo
  • Online rewards programs for airlines, credit cards, hotels, etc
  • Cryptocurrency holdings, such as Bitcoin
  • Electronic communications, such as emails, social networking sites and blogs
  • Digital music, photos and videos
  • Business accounts (such as customer databases)
  • Domain names
  • Intellectual property

Delaware Probate Laws and Forms

Estates valued below $30,000, with no real property, are considered small estates and aren’t subject to probate in Delaware. You can submit a Small Estate Affidavit instead.

Certain kinds of assets can also pass without probate, and don’t count toward an estate’s value.

  • Joint Tenancy Assets - When a joint tenant passes, the surviving joint tenant becomes the sole owner without court involvement.
  • Beneficiary Designations - Beneficiaries named on retirement accounts or insurance policies are entitled to these named assets.
  • Payable (or Transfer) on Death Accounts - some bank or brokerage accounts allow for seamless transferring upon passing without involving the courts. 
  • Living Trust Assets - Assets held in a Living Trust avoid probate.

Official instructions for probating an estate, and a full collection of probate forms, can be found at the Delaware Register of Wills Website.

Delaware Probate and Non-Probate Forms

Inventory Forms

Accounting Forms

Delaware Estate & Inheritance Tax 

There is no estate, inheritance or gift tax in Delaware, however estates worth over $11.18 million are still subject to the federal estate tax.

Other Forms

The Delaware Courts website has an extensive repository of legal forms for all sorts of situations, including:

  • Alternative Dispute Resolution 
  • Appeals
  • Bail Bonds
  • Change Your Name 
  • Custody  
  • Custody Modification  
  • Custody/Visitation  
  • Divorce  
  • Expedited Relief  
  • Expungement of Criminal Records  
  • Garagekeeper's Liens  
  • General Civil Lawsuits  
  • Guardianship  
  • Judgments  
  • Landlord/ Tenant  
  • Licenses and Registrations  
  • Other Criminal  
  • Paternity/Genetic Testing  
  • Protection From Abuse  
  • Real Estate (Land) Issues  
  • Support  
  • Traffic
  • Visitation  
  • Wills and Estates  
  • Workplace Issues  

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