Navigating the landscape of estate planning documents can be complex, and understanding the nuances of each document is key. A living will, also known as an advance healthcare directive, is a legal document that expresses your healthcare wishes should you become unable to make those decisions yourself. It's crucial to differentiate a living will from a last will and testament, which handles the distribution of your assets after your death. It's also different from a living trust, which is a tool for managing your assets during your lifetime, and potentially after your death.
Living Will vs Power of Attorney
A living will and a Power of Attorney (POA) are two separate yet vital components of a comprehensive estate planning strategy. A living will is focused on healthcare decisions, indicating what kind of medical treatment you would want or not want if you're unable to express your wishes.
On the other hand, a POA allows you to appoint a trusted individual (known as an agent) to make decisions on your behalf. These decisions can cover financial matters, healthcare decisions, or both, depending on the type of POA you set up. Having both a living will and a POA is crucial as they complement each other and ensure your wishes are respected in different scenarios.
Examples of a Living Will
A living will can encompass a wide range of healthcare decisions. For instance, you could include instructions on:
- Life-prolonging treatments: You can specify 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 articulate whether you want to receive or not receive pain medication.
- Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders: You can express your preference regarding whether 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.
In essence, a living will forms 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 creating a living will in South Dakota 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 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 for a fraction of what it would cost to hire an attorney.
When Does a Living Will Go Into Effect?
A living will becomes effective when you are unable to make your own healthcare decisions, often due to incapacitation from 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, 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 South Dakota.
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 offer a cost-effective alternative. Snug provides an easy-to-use platform to create a living will that meets South Dakota's legal requirements.
Notarizing Living Wills
In South Dakota, your living will must be notarized to be legally valid. The notary public verifies your identity and ensures that you are signing the document willingly and without coercion. Notary fees in South Dakota are set by the state and can range from $5 to $10 per signature.
Witnessing a Living Will
Along with notarization, South 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 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 essential to create this document as part of your comprehensive estate plan.