Beginning with some necessary clarifications, a living will, also known as an advance healthcare directive, is a legal document detailing your wishes for medical care if you are incapacitated and cannot make decisions for yourself. It is important to distinguish a living will from a last will and testament, which deals with the distribution of your assets after your death. Also, a living will is not the same as a living trust, a tool for managing your assets during your lifetime and beyond.
Living Will vs Power of Attorney
While both living wills and Powers of Attorney (POA) are vital elements of a comprehensive estate plan, they have different functions. A living will focuses on healthcare decisions, outlining the kind of medical treatment you would want or not want if you become incapacitated and 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 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 complement each other and ensure your wishes are respected in various situations.
Examples of a Living Will
In a living will, you can specify a wide range of healthcare decisions. For instance, you could include instructions on:
- Life-prolonging treatments: Whether you would want treatments that don't cure you but can keep you alive longer, such as ventilators or feeding tubes.
- Pain management: Whether you want to receive or not receive pain medications.
- Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders: Whether you wish to be resuscitated if your heart or breathing stops.
- Organ and tissue donations: Whether you wish to donate your organs and tissues after death.
A living will becomes 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 North Dakota can vary depending on the method you choose. If you opt to hire a lawyer, costs can range from $200 to $500, depending on the complexity of your situation and the lawyer's fees.
However, there are more cost-effective options. Online platforms like Snug offer a user-friendly and affordable way to create a legally valid living will. With Snug, you can create a living will for a fraction of the cost of hiring a lawyer.
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 outlines your treatment preferences, a Medical POA names 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 North Dakota's legal requirements.
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 North Dakota's legal requirements.
Notarizing Living Wills
In North Dakota, your living will must be notarized to be legally binding. The notary public verifies your identity and ensures you are signing the document willingly and without coercion. Notary fees in North Dakota are set by the state and can range from $5 to $10 per signature.
Witnessing a Living Will
Along with notarization, North Dakota 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 opt to use an attorney or an online platform like Snug, it's essential to create this document as part of your comprehensive estate plan.