Estate Planning 101

How to Make a Living Will in Maryland

In Maryland, factors such as notarization, the number of required witnesses, and the point at which the living will becomes effective are all governed by specific state laws. In this guide, we'll answer all the important questions.
February 4, 2024

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In the realm of estate planning, understanding the nuances of different documents is crucial. A living will, often referred to as an advance healthcare directive, is a legal document that articulates your healthcare wishes should you become unable to make those decisions yourself. It's important to distinguish a living will from a last will and testament, which pertains to the distribution of your assets after your death, and from a living trust, which is a tool for asset management during your lifetime and potentially after your death.

Living Will vs Power of Attorney

A living will and a Power of Attorney (POA) are two distinct but crucial components of a comprehensive estate plan. A living will addresses healthcare decisions, indicating what kind of medical treatment you would want or not want if you become unable to express your wishes. 

A POA, conversely, allows you to designate a trusted individual (known as an agent) to make decisions on your behalf. This could 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 a variety of situations.

Examples of a Living Will

A living will can encompass a wide range of healthcare decisions. For instance, you might 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 articulate your preference to receive or not receive pain medication. 
  • Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders: You can express your preference regarding 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 is an integral 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 Maryland can differ 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 affordable alternatives available. Online platforms like Snug offer a straightforward and cost-effective way to create a legally valid living will. With Snug, you can draft a living will at a fraction of the cost of hiring an attorney.

When Does a Living Will Go Into Effect?

A living will takes effect when you become unable to make your own healthcare decisions, typically due to incapacitation from 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 your document meets all legal requirements in Maryland. 

However, hiring an attorney comes with additional costs. If you feel comfortable creating a living will on your own and your healthcare wishes are straightforward, online solutions like Snug can offer a cost-effective alternative. Snug provides an easy-to-use platform to create a living will that meets Maryland's legal requirements.

Notarizing Living Wills

In Maryland, your living will must be notarized to be legally valid. The notary public verifies your identity and ensures that you are signing the document voluntarily and without coercion. Notary fees in Maryland are set by the state and can range from $4 to $10 per signature.

Witnessing a Living Will

Along with notarization, Maryland 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 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.