Estate planning can seem complicated, but understanding its basic terminologies can make the process easier. A living will, also known as an advance healthcare directive, is a legal document that outlines your healthcare wishes should you become unable to make these decisions yourself. It's crucial to note that a living will differs from a last will and testament, which deals with the distribution of your assets after your death. Additionally, a living will is not the same as a living trust, a tool meant for managing your assets during your lifetime and beyond.
Living Will vs Power of Attorney
A living will and a Power of Attorney (POA) are two different yet vital components of a comprehensive estate plan. A living will deals specifically with healthcare decisions, stating what kind of medical treatments you would or wouldn't want if you're unable to express your wishes.
Conversely, a POA allows you to appoint 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 advisable to have both a living will and a POA as they serve to complement each other and ensure your wishes are honored in various situations.
Examples of a Living Will
A living will can outline a wide range of healthcare decisions. For instance, you might want to include instructions on:
- Life-prolonging treatments: You can express 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 medications.
- Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders: You can indicate your preference regarding whether you wish 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.
Your living will becomes a critical component 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 Missouri can vary depending on the method you choose. If you decide to hire an attorney, costs can range from $200 to $500, depending on your situation's complexity and the attorney's rates.
However, there are more cost-effective options available. Online platforms like 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 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 legal requirements in Missouri.
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 provide a cost-effective alternative. Snug offers an easy-to-use platform to create a living will that meets Missouri's legal requirements.
Notarizing Living Wills
In Missouri, 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 Missouri are set by the state and can range from $5 to $10 per signature.
Witnessing a Living Will
Along with notarization, Missouri 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 like Snug, it's crucial to create this document as part of your comprehensive estate plan.