Estate Planning 101

How to Make a Living Will in New York

In New York, 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 various legal documents and their implications is crucial. A living will, also referred to as an advance healthcare directive, is a legal document that outlines your healthcare preferences should you become unable to make those decisions yourself. It's important to differentiate a living will from a last will and testament, which pertains to the distribution of your assets after death. Additionally, a living will should not be mistaken for a living trust, which is a mechanism for managing your assets during your lifetime and beyond.

Living Will vs Power of Attorney

A living will and a Power of Attorney (POA) serve distinct roles, but both are vital components of a comprehensive estate plan. A living will concentrates on healthcare decisions, outlining what kind of medical treatment you would want or not want if you're unable to express your wishes. 

Conversely, a POA enables you to designate a trusted individual (your agent) to make decisions on your behalf. This can cover financial decisions, healthcare decisions, or both, depending on the type of POA you create. It's advisable to have both a living will and a POA as they complement each other and ensure your wishes are upheld in a variety of situations.

Examples of a Living Will

A living will can cover a broad range of healthcare decisions. For instance, you may 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 express whether you want to receive or not receive pain medication. 
  • Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders: You can state your preference about whether or not to be resuscitated if your heart or breathing stops.
  • Organ and tissue donations: You can declare your wish to donate your organs and tissues after death. 

A living will essentially forms a key part of your overall estate plan, offering 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 York can vary based on the method you choose. If you decide to engage an attorney, the cost can range from $200 to $500, depending on the complexity of your situation and the attorney's fees. 

However, more cost-effective options are 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 at 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, typically when you are incapacitated due to 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 conjunction 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, especially 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 New York. 

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 a user-friendly platform to create a living will that complies with New York's legal requirements.

Notarizing Living Wills

In New York, your living will must be notarized to be legally valid. The notary public verifies your identity and confirms that you are signing the document willingly and without coercion. Notary fees in New York are set by the state and can range from $2 to $6 per signature.

Witnessing a Living Will

Along with notarization, New York law requires two adult witnesses for a living will. These witnesses must be present when you sign the document. Notably, 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 essential step in safeguarding your healthcare wishes and providing guidance to your loved ones. Whether you opt to use an attorney or an online platform like Snug, it's imperative to include this document as part of your comprehensive estate plan.