Understanding the legal language of estate planning can be quite complex. A living will, also known as an advance healthcare directive, is a legal document that outlines your medical treatment preferences in the event that you are unable to express these decisions yourself. It's crucial to note that a living will is not the same as a last will and testament, which deals with the distribution of your assets after your death. Additionally, a living will should not be confused with a living trust, which is a tool for managing and distributing your assets during your lifetime and beyond.
Living Will vs Power of Attorney
Although a living will and a Power of Attorney (POA) are distinct documents, they are both crucial parts of a comprehensive estate plan. A living will focuses on healthcare decisions, specifying what kind of medical treatment you would want or not want if you become incapacitated and unable to express your wishes.
A POA, on the other hand, allows you to appoint a trusted individual (known as an agent) to make decisions on your behalf. These decisions can range from financial transactions, healthcare decisions, or both, depending upon the type of POA you establish. Having both a living will and a POA ensures your wishes are respected in various scenarios.
Examples of a Living Will
In a living will, you can outline a wide range of healthcare decisions. For example, you can include instructions on:
- Life-prolonging treatments: You can specify 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 express whether you want to receive or not receive pain medication.
- Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders: You can state your preference about whether or not 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 part of your overall estate plan, providing clear 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 Louisiana can vary greatly based on the method you choose. If you engage an attorney, the cost 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 such as Snug offer a straightforward and cost-effective way to create a legally valid living will. With Snug, you can create a living will for a fraction of the cost of hiring 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, often 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, making these two documents critical components of a comprehensive estate plan.
Hiring an Attorney to Make a Living Will
While it is 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 specific situation and ensure the document meets all legal requirements in Louisiana.
However, hiring an attorney comes with additional costs. If you are comfortable creating a living will on your own and your healthcare wishes are straightforward, online platforms such as Snug can provide a cost-effective alternative. Snug offers an easy-to-use platform to create a living will that adheres to Louisiana's legal requirements.
Notarizing Living Wills
In Louisiana, 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 Louisiana are set by the state and can range from $5 to $10 per signature.
Witnessing a Living Will
Along with notarization, Louisiana 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 significant 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 crucial to create this document as a critical part of your comprehensive estate plan.