Understanding estate planning documents is crucial in making decisions that best serve your interests. One such document is a living will, also known as an advance healthcare directive. This document outlines your preferences for medical care should you become incapable of making decisions for yourself. It's important to distinguish a living will from a last will and testament, which deals with the distribution of your assets after death. Furthermore, a living will should not be confused with a living trust, which is designed to manage your assets during your lifetime and beyond.
Living Will vs Power of Attorney
A living will and a Power of Attorney (POA) serve different purposes but are both critical elements of a comprehensive estate plan. A living will focuses on healthcare decisions, specifying what kind of medical treatment you want or don't want if you become unable to express your wishes.
On the other hand, a POA allows you to designate a trusted individual (your 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 necessary to have both a living will and a POA as they complement each other and ensure your wishes are respected in various situations.
Examples of a Living Will
A living will can specify a broad range of healthcare decisions. For instance, you may 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 if you want to receive or not receive pain medication.
- Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders: You can express your preference about whether or not to be resuscitated if your heart or breathing stops.
- Organ and tissue donations: You can state your wish to donate your organs and tissues after death.
In essence, a living will forms a critical part 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 Hawaii 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 attorney'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 comes into effect when you are unable to make your own healthcare decisions, typically when you are incapacitated due to 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 you can 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 your document fulfils all legal requirements in Hawaii.
However, hiring an attorney incurs additional costs. If you're 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 Hawaii's legal requirements.
Notarizing Living Wills
In Hawaii, 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 Hawaii are set by the state and can range from $5 to $10 per signature.
Witnessing a Living Will
In addition to notarization, Hawaii law requires two adult witnesses for a living will. These witnesses must be present when you sign the document. Importantly, 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.
Making a living will is an essential step in safeguarding 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 crucial to create this document as part of your comprehensive estate plan.