Estate planning documents often come with their unique terminologies. A living will, also referred to as an advance healthcare directive, is one such document that outlines your healthcare wishes should you become unable to voice these decisions yourself. A living will is distinct from a last will and testament, which details the distribution of your assets upon your demise. It's also noteworthy to remember that a living will differs from a living trust, a tool used for managing your assets during your lifetime and beyond.
Living Will vs Power of Attorney
A living will and a Power of Attorney (POA) are separate but equally critical elements of a comprehensive estate plan. A living will directly deals with healthcare decisions, specifying the kind of medical treatment you would want or not want if you become unable to express your wishes.
A POA, contrastingly, allows you to designate a trusted individual (known as an agent) to make decisions on your behalf. This can encompass financial decisions, healthcare decisions, or both, depending on the type of POA you establish. It's vital to have both a living will and a POA as they serve to complement each other and ensure your wishes are respected in various situations.
Examples of a Living Will
A living will can include a broad range of healthcare decisions. For instance, you might include instructions on:
- Life-prolonging treatments: You can indicate 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 if you want to receive or not receive pain medications.
- Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders: You can express your preference about whether you wish to be resuscitated if your heart or breathing stops.
- Organ and tissue donations: You can express your wish to donate your organs and tissues after death.
In essence, a living will becomes an integral component of your overall estate plan, providing guidance to your family and healthcare providers about your medical treatment preferences.
Cost of a Living Will
The cost of creating a living will in Delaware can vary depending on the method you choose. If you decide to hire an attorney, costs can range from $200 to $500, depending upon the complexity of your situation and the attorney's rates.
However, there are more affordable options available. Online platforms such as Snug offer a simple and cost-effective way to create a legally valid living will. With Snug, you can draft 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 comes into effect when you are unable to make your own healthcare decisions. This typically occurs when you are incapacitated due to illness or injury. It's important to note that 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 hand in hand in an estate plan.
Hiring an Attorney to Make a Living Will
While it's feasible to create a living will on your own, hiring an attorney can be beneficial, especially 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 Delaware.
However, attorney services come with additional costs. If you are comfortable with creating a living will on your own and your healthcare wishes are straightforward, online solutions such as Snug can provide a cost-effective alternative. Snug offers an easy-to-use platform to create a living will that fulfills Delaware's legal requirements.
Notarizing Living Wills
In Delaware, 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 Delaware are set by the state and can range from $5 to $10 per signature.
Witnessing a Living Will
In addition to notarization, Delaware 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 a vital step in safeguarding your healthcare wishes and providing guidance to your loved ones. Whether you choose to use an attorney or an online platform such as Snug, it's essential to create this document as a part of your comprehensive estate plan.