Estate Planning 101

How to Make a Living Will in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, 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.
September 14, 2023

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Navigating through estate planning documents often involves understanding various legal terminologies. A living will, also known 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 crucial to note that a living will is different from a last will and testament, which pertains to the distribution of your assets after your death. Also, a living will is not the same as a living trust, which is a method for managing your assets during your lifetime and beyond.

Living Will vs Power of Attorney

While a living will and a Power of Attorney (POA) are different, they are both critical components of a comprehensive estate plan. A living will deals specifically with healthcare decisions, delineating 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, allows you to appoint a trusted individual (known as an agent) to make decisions on your behalf. This can cover financial decisions, healthcare decisions, or both, depending on the type of POA you establish. It's essential to have both a living will and a POA as they complement each other and ensure your wishes are respected in various scenarios.

Examples of a Living Will

A living will can encompass a wide range of healthcare decisions. For instance, you might include instructions on:

  • Life-prolonging treatments: You can express whether you want treatments that don't cure you but can keep you alive longer, like 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 articulate your preference about whether or not to be resuscitated if your heart or breathing stops.
  • Organ and tissue donations: You can state your desire to donate your organs and tissues after death. 

A living will is an integral 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 crafting a living will in Pennsylvania can vary depending on the method you select. If you engage an attorney, costs can range from $200 to $500, depending upon the complexity of your situation and the attorney's rates. 

However, more affordable options are available. Online platforms like Snug offer an uncomplicated and cost-effective way to create a legally valid living will. With Snug, you can draft 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 typically occurs 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 possible 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 Pennsylvania. 

However, attorney services come with additional costs. If you're 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 adheres to Pennsylvania's legal requirements.

Notarizing Living Wills

In Pennsylvania, your living will must be notarized to be legally valid. The notary public verifies your identity and ensures that you're signing the document of your own free will and without coercion. Notary fees in Pennsylvania are set by the state and can range from $5 to $10 per signature.

Witnessing a Living Will

Along with notarization, Pennsylvania 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 for 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.