As we embark on this topic, let's first clarify a few terminologies. A living will, also known as an advance healthcare directive, is a legal document that details your preferences for medical care in case you're unable to make decisions for yourself. It's important to distinguish a living will from a last will and testament, which handles the distribution of your assets after your death. Moreover, a living will is not the same as a living trust; the latter is a tool for managing your assets during your lifetime and beyond.
Living Will vs Power of Attorney
Though both are essential components of a well-rounded estate plan, a living will and a Power of Attorney (POA) serve different functions. A living will is centered around healthcare decisions, outlining the type of medical treatment you want or do not want, should you become incapacitated and unable to express your wishes.
In contrast, a POA allows you to appoint a trusted person (known as an agent) to make decisions on your behalf. These decisions can encompass financial matters, healthcare decisions, or both, depending on the type of POA you establish. It's necessary to have both a living will and a POA as they complement each other and ensure your wishes are respected in different situations.
Examples of a Living Will
A living will can encompass a broad 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, 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 state your preference on whether you wish to be resuscitated if your heart or breathing stops.
- Organ and tissue donations: You can outline your wish to donate your organs and tissues after death.
A living will becomes part of your overall estate plan, offering 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 Washington can vary based on the method you choose. If you opt to hire an attorney, the costs can range from $200 to $500, depending on the complexity of your situation and the attorney's rates.
However, more affordable options are available. Online platforms such as Snug provide an easy and cost-effective way to create a legally valid living will. With Snug, you can craft 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, typically when you are incapacitated due to illness or injury. While a living will outlines your treatment preferences, a Medical POA designates a person to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. These two documents often work hand in hand 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 complicated. An attorney can provide legal advice tailored to your situation and ensure that the document meets all legal requirements in Washington.
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 Washington's legal requirements.
Notarizing Living Wills
In Washington, your living will must be notarized to be legally valid. The notary public verifies your identity and ensures that you are signing the document voluntarily and without coercion. Notary fees in Washington are set by the state and can range from $5 to $10 per signature.
Witnessing a Living Will
In addition to notarization, Washington 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.
Crafting a living will is a crucial step in safeguarding your healthcare wishes and providing guidance to your loved ones. Whether you choose to work with an attorney or use an online platform like Snug, it's essential to create this document as part of your comprehensive estate plan.