Navigating the realm of legal terminology is a key aspect of diligent estate planning. A living will, also known as an advance healthcare directive, is a legal document that outlines your medical treatment preferences if you become incapable of making decisions for yourself. It's important to differentiate a living will from a last will and testament, which deals with the distribution of your property after your death. Additionally, a living will is not the same as a living trust, a tool for managing your assets during your lifetime and after your demise.
Living Will vs Power of Attorney
A living will and a Power of Attorney (POA) are two separate but equally important components of a comprehensive estate plan. A living will is centered on healthcare decisions, specifying 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, enables you to appoint a trusted individual (known as an agent) to make decisions on your behalf. This can encompass financial decisions, healthcare decisions, or both, depending on the type of POA you establish. Having both a living will and a POA is vital as they complement each other and ensure your wishes are honored in various circumstances.
Examples of a Living Will
A living will can cover a broad range of healthcare decisions. For example, you might include instructions on:
- Life-prolonging treatments: You can state if 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 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.
A living will forms an essential 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 making a living will in North Carolina 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 affordable options available. Online platforms like Snug offer a simple and cost-effective way to create a legally valid living will. With Snug, you can create a living will at 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 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, especially 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 North Carolina.
However, hiring an attorney does come 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 North Carolina's legal requirements.
Notarizing Living Wills
In North Carolina, your living will must be notarized to be legally valid. The notary public verifies your identity and ensures you are signing the document willingly and without coercion. Notary fees in North Carolina are set by the state and can range from $5 to $10 per signature.
Witnessing a Living Will
Along with notarization, North Carolina 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 critical 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 essential to create this document as part of your comprehensive estate plan.