In the realm of estate planning, it's essential to understand the various documents and their specific purposes. A living will, also known as an advance healthcare directive, is a document that outlines your preferences for medical care if you become unable to make these decisions for yourself. It's crucial to distinguish a living will from a last will and testament, which governs the distribution of your assets after death. Similarly, a living will is not the same as a living trust, which focuses on asset management during your lifetime and beyond.
Living Will vs Power of Attorney
A living will and a Power of Attorney (POA) serve different, yet equally important, roles in a comprehensive estate plan. A living will primarily focuses on healthcare decisions, outlining what types of medical treatment you would want or not want if you are unable to express your wishes.
In contrast, a POA allows you to appoint a trusted individual, known as an agent, to make decisions on your behalf, which can include financial and/or healthcare decisions, depending on the type of POA you establish. It's critical to have both a living will and a POA, as they complement each other and ensure your wishes are respected across a range of situations.
Examples of a Living Will
A living will can detail a broad range of healthcare decisions. For instance, 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 your preference for receiving or not receiving 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.
A living will thus becomes a significant part of your overall estate plan, offering 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 Maine can vary depending on the method you choose. If you opt to hire an attorney, costs can range from $200 to $500, depending on the complexity of your situation and the lawyer's rates.
However, there are more cost-effective options available. Online platforms like Snug offer an easy and affordable 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 goes into effect 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 feasible 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 Maine.
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 Maine's legal requirements.
Notarizing Living Wills
In Maine, 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 Maine are set by the state and can range from $5 to $10 per signature.
Witnessing a Living Will
Along with notarization, Maine 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 crucial to create this document as part of your comprehensive estate plan.