In the realm of estate planning, understanding the terminology is key. A living will, often referred to as an advance healthcare directive, is a legal document that expresses your healthcare preferences if you're unable to make decisions for yourself. It's vital to understand that a living will is different from a last will and testament, which deals with the distribution of your assets after your death. Also, a living will is not a living trust, a tool for managing your assets during your lifetime and beyond.
Living Will vs Power of Attorney
A living will and a Power of Attorney (POA) fulfill different but equally crucial roles in a comprehensive estate plan. A living will focuses on healthcare decisions, outlining 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. It's important to have both a living will and a POA as they complement each other and ensure your wishes are respected in a variety of scenarios.
Examples of a Living Will
A living will can encompass a wide range of healthcare decisions. For example, 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 share 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 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 Michigan 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 attorney's rates.
However, there are more cost-effective options available. Online platforms such as Snug offer a straightforward and affordable way to create a legally valid living will. With Snug, you can draft 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. This usually happens when you are incapacitated due to an illness or injury. While a living will details your treatment preferences, a Medical POA appoints a person to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. These two documents often work in tandem as part of 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 Michigan.
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 solutions such as Snug can provide a cost-effective alternative. Snug offers an easy-to-use platform to create a living will that meets Michigan's legal requirements.
Notarizing Living Wills
In Michigan, your living will must be notarized to be legally valid. The notary public verifies your identity and ensures that you are signing the document willingly and without coercion. Notary fees in Michigan are set by the state and can range from $5 to $10 per signature.
Witnessing a Living Will
In addition to notarization, Michigan 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 essential to create this document as part of your comprehensive estate plan.