Virginia: 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 Virginia. Download these forms 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

As one of the original thirteen colonies, Virginia has laws, taxes, and regulations that date back to the earliest days of our nation. That said, state laws that apply to medical records and registries, taxes, and estate planning have evolved and become increasingly complex over the years. Fortunately, you can easily organize your important documents and feel confident that you’re abiding by all the applicable laws in Virginia.

Essential Medical State Laws & Forms: Virginia

How to Get Your Medical Records in Virginia

Many states require doctors and medical facilities to keep medical records for a period of 10 years or more. However, the minimum time to keep records on file in Virginia is just 5 years. This means that if you try to obtain a copy of your medical records more than 5 years after the record was produced, it may be too late. 

In certain circumstances (like for Medicare patients), federal law requires hospitals to maintain records for up to 7 years. However, for the majority of Virginia residents, the period of medical record availability ends at 5 years. If you’d like to learn more about obtaining a medical record for yourself or someone you know, consult the Virginia Health Information Management Association.

Virginia Medical Marijuana Registry

As of July 1st, 2020, Virginia residents can legally possess marijuana, as long as they are registered with the state’s medical-marijuana program. Doctors in Virginia do not write “prescriptions” for medical marijuana, but they can make recommendations via written “certifications.” A certification from a pre-approved practitioner is required to register for a medical cannabis card in Virginia. In addition to acquiring a certification and providing the necessary documentation, you will also need to pay a $50 application fee before you can receive your card. 

Virginia Advance Directive Laws

According to Virginia Statute 54.1-2983, “any adult capable of making an informed decision may, at any time, make a written Advance Directive to address any or all forms of health care in the event the declarant is later determined to be incapable of making an informed decision.” Advance Directives in Virginia must be signed by the declarant in front of two witnesses. It also must be signed by the two witnesses in front of the declarant.

Once this has been done, the Advance Directive will be valid and any agent appointed by the declarant may make medical decisions on their behalf if and when they become incapable of doing so on their own. You can find the official Advance Directive application form for the state of Virginia right here

Read more about living wills and why you might need one

Virginia Organ Donor Registry

If you’d like to become an organ donor in Virginia, you can register when you apply for a new state ID or renew an existing state ID. The paperwork will require you to state whether or not you would like to be an organ donor. You can learn more about this process through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. Additionally, you can add your name to the organ donor registry by filling out the required information on Donate Life Virginia.

Essential Virginia Legal & Estate Planning Documents & Forms

Wills, Trusts, and Probate Laws in Virginia

The process to create a will in Virginia is relatively straightforward. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a lawyer to make a will. Instead, you must meet the following four requirements so that the state of Virginia can recognize your document as a valid will:

  • You must be 18 years of age or older
  • You must be mentally capable of writing your own will
  • The will must be put in writing and must be signed by you
  • Two witnesses must see you sign the will and they must also sign the will in front of you

Much like a will, the process for creating a trust in Virginia is pretty simple. In addition to having the necessary mental capacity to create your own trust, you must also declare a beneficiary for your trust and a trustee to ensure that your declarations are carried out. The specific powers of a trustee are outlined in Virginia Statute 64.2-778. You can also learn more about the process of creating a living trust in Virginia.

If a deceased person does not have a will or a trust, then the court decides how their remaining assets are allocated in a process known as “probate.” Unlike many states, Virginia does not have a separate probate court. Instead, all probate cases go through the Virginia Circuit Court. In the event that there is no will or trust, and if the deceased did not declare a representative to manage their estate, the court will assign a representative. This person will be responsible for assembling all of the deceased’s assets, paying any bills as needed, and distributing the rest of the assets to any descendants or beneficiaries.

The state of Virginia provides a complete breakdown of the probate process in the Guide to the Administration of Decedent’s Estates in Virginia

Read more about the biggest differences between a will and a trust, and why you might want to avoid Virginia’s stricter probate requirements when planning your estate.

Virginia Digital Estate Planning Laws

Virginia Statute 64.2-120 defines the terms and processes related to digital estate planning. Through a will, trust, or power of attorney, an individual may designate someone as the custodian of their digital estate. In doing so, the individual grants the custodian access to their digital accounts, records, and correspondences. Additionally, the custodian has the right — within the powers outlined in the will, trust, or power of attorney — to grant a fiduciary full or partial access to these digital accounts.

How to Get a Death Certificate in Virginia

Virginia only allows certain individuals to obtain a copy of a death certificate. More specifically, the spouse, parent, adult child, or adult sibling of the deceased may legally request a death certificate through the Virginia Department of Health or If you do not fit into one of the aforementioned categories, you may still request access by providing sufficient proof of entitlement and a valid government ID. A certified copy of a death certificate costs $12.00, plus $12.00 for each additional copy

Does Virginia Have an Estate & Inheritance Tax?

Since 2007, Virginia has not had any form of estate or inheritance tax. Prior to 2007, Virginia had an estate tax that was equivalent to the federal credit for state death taxes. However, once the federal credit was abolished, the Virginia estate tax was effectively repealed. This means that descendants who inherit property or assets from a deceased person’s estate will not have to file taxes with the state of Virginia. However, beneficiaries will still need to file federal estate taxes. You can learn more about this process from the Internal Revenue Service.

Everything You Need to Know About Estate Planning in Virginia

Like most states, Virginia has its own rules and procedures related to medical records and registries, inheritance taxes, wills, trusts, probate, and general estate planning. Fortunately, you can navigate these complex processes in Virginia with confidence by signing up for a Pillar account. With Pillar, you can scan, store, and share your most important state documents when you need them via Pillar’s secure and easy-to-use online storage tool. 

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