Understanding the intricacies of estate planning documents is key to a successful planning process. A living will, also known as an advance healthcare directive, is a document that outlines your healthcare preferences should you become incapacitated and unable to communicate these wishes yourself. It’s critical to understand that a living will is different from a last will and testament, which deals with the distribution of your assets after you pass away. A living will should not be confused with a living trust, which is a tool used for managing your assets during your lifetime and after your death.
Living Will vs Power of Attorney
A living will and a Power of Attorney (POA) are both vital parts of a comprehensive estate plan but serve different functions. A living will focuses exclusively on healthcare decisions, defining what kind of medical treatment you would want or not want if you're 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. This can include financial decisions, healthcare decisions, or both, depending on the type of POA you establish. Having both a living will and a POA is important as they complement each other to ensure your wishes are respected in various situations.
Examples of a Living Will
A living will can specify a wide range of healthcare decisions. For example, you may include instructions regarding:
- Life-prolonging treatments: You can detail 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 whether 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.
A living will becomes an essential 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 Massachusetts can vary depending on the method you choose. If you decide 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 options available. Online platforms such as Snug offer a straightforward and cost-effective way to create a legally valid living will. With Snug, you can draft 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. 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 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 the document meets all the legal requirements in Massachusetts.
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 such as Snug can provide a cost-effective alternative. Snug offers an easy-to-use platform to create a living will that meets Massachusetts's legal requirements.
Notarizing Living Wills
In Massachusetts, your living will does not necessarily need to be notarized to be legally valid. However, notarization can add an extra layer of authenticity. The notary public verifies your identity and ensures you are signing the document voluntarily and without coercion. Notary fees in Massachusetts are set by the state and can range from $5 to $10 per signature.
Witnessing a Living Will
Massachusetts 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 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 part of your comprehensive estate plan.