In the realm of estate planning, understanding the various terminologies is crucial. 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 make decisions for yourself. It's important to note that a living will is distinct from a last will and testament, which addresses the distribution of your assets after your death. A living will and a living trust are also not the same; a living trust is a tool for managing your assets during your lifetime and beyond.
Living Will vs Power of Attorney
While living wills and Powers of Attorney (POA) are both essential components of a comprehensive estate plan, they serve different purposes. A living will focuses on healthcare decisions, outlining what kind of medical treatment you want or don't want should 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. This can include 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 honored in various situations.
Examples of a Living Will
In a living will, you can specify a wide range of healthcare decisions. For example, 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 your wish to receive or not receive pain medications.
- Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders: You can indicate your preference about whether or not 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 becomes a 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 South Carolina can vary depending on the method you choose. If you decide to hire an attorney, costs can range from $200 to $500, depending on the complexity of your situation and the lawyer's rates.
However, there are more cost-effective options available. Online platforms like Snug offer an easy and affordable 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 goes into effect when you are unable to make your own healthcare decisions. This typically happens when you are incapacitated due to an illness or injury. It's important to note that 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 the legal requirements in South Carolina.
However, hiring an attorney comes with additional costs. If you are comfortable with 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 South Carolina's legal requirements.
Notarizing Living Wills
In South 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 South Carolina are set by the state and can range from $5 to $10 per signature.
Witnessing a Living Will
Along with notarization, South 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 an important step in protecting 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.