Understanding the terminologies is crucial in estate planning. A living will, or an advance healthcare directive, is a legal document that specifies your healthcare preferences should you become unable to make those decisions yourself. It's important to note 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 should not be confused with a living trust, which is a tool 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 two separate but essential components of a comprehensive estate plan. A living will is specifically concerned with healthcare decisions, defining what kind of medical treatment you would want or not want if you're incapacitated and unable to express your wishes.
A POA, on the other hand, allows you to designate 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 crucial to have both a living will and a POA as they serve to complement each other and ensure your wishes are respected across various scenarios.
Examples of a Living Will
A living will can include a wide range of healthcare decisions. For instance, you may 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 whether you want to receive or not receive pain medication.
- Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders: You can express 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.
In essence, a living will becomes a crucial 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 New Jersey can vary depending on the method you select. If you choose to hire an attorney, costs can range from $200 to $500, depending upon the complexity of your situation and the attorney's rates.
However, there are more affordable options available. Online platforms such as Snug offer a simple and cost-effective 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 often occurs when you are incapacitated due to illness or injury. While a living will outlines your treatment preferences, a Medical POA names a person to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. These two documents frequently 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 New Jersey.
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 such as Snug can offer a cost-effective alternative. Snug provides an easy-to-use platform to create a living will that adheres to New Jersey's legal requirements.
Notarizing Living Wills
In New Jersey, 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 New Jersey are set by the state and can range from $5 to $10 per signature.
Witnessing a Living Will
Along with notarization, New Jersey 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 a part of your comprehensive estate plan.