Let's begin by clarifying the term 'living will'. Often referred to as an advance healthcare directive, a living will is a legal document that outlines your preferences for medical care if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. It's important to understand that a living will is distinct from a last will and testament, which addresses the distribution of your assets after your death. Additionally, a living will is not the same as a living trust; a living trust is a tool for managing your assets during your lifetime and beyond.
Living Will vs Power of Attorney
While both a living will and a Power of Attorney (POA) are crucial components of any comprehensive estate plan, they serve different purposes. A living will focuses explicitly on healthcare decisions, defining the type of medical treatment you want or don't want should you become incapacitated and unable to express your wishes.
On the other hand, a POA allows you to appoint a trusted person (known as an agent) to make decisions on your behalf, which can include financial decisions, healthcare decisions, or both, depending on the type of POA you establish. Having both a living will and a POA is crucial as they complement each other and ensure your wishes are honored in a variety of situations.
Examples of a Living Will
Your living will can specify a broad range of healthcare decisions. For example, you might include instructions on:
- Life-prolonging treatments: You can state whether you want treatments that don't cure you but can keep you alive longer, such as ventilators or feeding tubes.
- Pain management: You can specify whether you wish to receive or not receive pain medications.
- Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders: You can express your preference about whether or not you wish to be resuscitated if your heart or breathing stops.
- Organ and tissue donations: You can declare your wish to donate your organs and tissues after death.
As part of your overall estate plan, a living will serves to guide your family and healthcare providers about your medical treatment preferences.
Cost of a Living Will
The cost of creating a living will in Colorado can vary depending on the method you choose. If you hire an attorney, costs can range from $200 to $500, depending on the complexity of your situation and the lawyer's rates.
However, more affordable options are available. Online platforms like Snug offer a simple and cost-effective way to create a legally valid living will. With Snug, you can create a living will for a fraction of what it would cost to hire an attorney.
When Does a Living Will Go Into Effect?
A living will becomes effective when you are unable to make your own healthcare decisions. This typically happens when you are incapacitated due to an illness or injury. While a living will outlines your treatment preferences, a Medical POA appoints a person to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. These two documents often work together in an estate plan.
Hiring an Attorney to Make a Living Will
While it's possible to create a living will on your own, hiring an attorney can be beneficial, particularly if your healthcare wishes are complex. An attorney can provide legal advice tailored to your situation and ensure the document meets all the legal requirements in Colorado.
However, hiring an attorney comes with additional costs. If you are comfortable with creating a living will on your own and your healthcare wishes are straightforward, online solutions like Snug can provide a cost-effective alternative. Snug offers an easy-to-use platform to create a living will that meets Colorado's legal requirements.
Notarizing Living Wills
In Colorado, your living will must be notarized to be legally valid. The notary public verifies your identity and ensures you are signing the document willingly and without coercion. Notary fees in Colorado are set by the state and can range from $5 to $10 per signature.
Witnessing a Living Will
Along with notarization, Colorado law requires two adult witnesses for a living will. These witnesses must be present when you sign the document. It's important to note that the witnesses cannot be related to you by blood or marriage, entitled to any part of your estate, or directly financially responsible for your healthcare.
Creating a living will is an important step in protecting your healthcare wishes and providing guidance to your loved ones. Whether you choose to use an attorney or an online platform like Snug, it's essential to create this document as part of your comprehensive estate plan.