Let's start with understanding what a living will is. Also known as an advance healthcare directive, a living will is a legal document that outlines your healthcare preferences should you become unable to make these decisions for yourself. It's crucial to differentiate a living will from a last will and testament, which deals with how your assets will be distributed after your death. Moreover, a living will should not be mistaken for a living trust, which is a tool for managing your assets during your lifetime and beyond.
Living Will vs Power of Attorney
A living will and a Power of Attorney (POA) are two separate but essential elements of a comprehensive estate plan. A living will relates specifically to healthcare decisions, stipulating what kind of medical treatment you want or don't want if you become unable to communicate your wishes.
Conversely, a POA allows you to delegate a trusted individual (referred to 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 important to have both a living will and a POA 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 broad range of healthcare decisions. For example, you might include instructions on:
- Life-prolonging treatments: You can stipulate 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 about whether or not 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 becomes 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 West Virginia 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 affordable options available. Online platforms like Snug provide 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 goes into effect when you are unable to make your own healthcare decisions. This usually happens 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 often work in tandem 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 West Virginia.
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 West Virginia's legal requirements.
Notarizing Living Wills
In West Virginia, 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 West Virginia are set by the state and can range from $5 to $10 per signature.
Witnessing a Living Will
Alongside notarization, West Virginia 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 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.