The first step towards understanding estate planning is grasping the legal terminologies. A living will, also known as an advance healthcare directive, is a legal document that outlines your wishes for medical care if you become unable to express these decisions yourself. It's important to understand that a living will is different from a last will and testament, which focuses on the distribution of your assets after your death. Similarly, a living will is not the same as a living trust, which is a tool for managing and distributing 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 distinct but essential components of a comprehensive estate plan. A living will specifically deals with healthcare decisions, outlining what kind of medical treatment you want or don't want if you become incapacitated and unable to express your wishes.
On the other hand, a POA allows you to appoint a trusted person (known as an agent) to make decisions on your behalf. These decisions could be financial, healthcare-related, or both, depending on the type of POA you establish. Having both a living will and a POA ensures your wishes are respected across various scenarios.
Examples of a Living Will
In a living will, you can specify a wide range of healthcare decisions. For instance, you might 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 about whether you wish to be resuscitated if your heart or breathing stops.
- Organ and tissue donations: You can express your wish to donate your organs and tissues after death.
A living will serves as a key 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 Rhode Island can vary based on the method you choose. If you decide to hire an attorney, the cost can range from $200 to $500, depending on your situation's complexity and the attorney's rates.
However, more affordable options are 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 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, often 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 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 the legal requirements in Rhode Island.
However, hiring an attorney comes with additional costs. If you are 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 Rhode Island's legal requirements.
Notarizing Living Wills
In Rhode Island, 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 Rhode Island are set by the state and can range from $5 to $10 per signature.
Witnessing a Living Will
Along with notarization, Rhode Island 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 like Snug, it's crucial to create this document as a part of your comprehensive estate plan.