The world of Wills and estate plans can get very overwhelming, very quickly. At best, it’s a load of complicated legal jargon, concepts you put off understanding and costs you’d rather avoid. At worst, it's the difference between you or your loved ones' end of life wishes being fulfilled- representing the legal ticket to protecting a legacy, and the security your’e estate will provide for those you love the most.
Providing for the future starts with planning ahead. It’s why at Safewill we make estate planning easier than ever, and why we’ve created this guide to help you get informed on the in’s and out’s of living Wills. Covering how they differ from a Will, why you might need one and how to start the process.
A living Will, formally named an Advance Care Directive, is a legal document that outlines your medical treatment preferences if you become unable to communicate or make decisions.
It specifically addresses end-of-life care, resuscitation, and life-sustaining measures. Unlike a Will, which focuses on asset distribution after death, a living Will/ advanced care directive focuses on healthcare specific decisions whilst you are alive.
In this sense, there are key differences between a living Will (advanced healthcare directive) and a Will.
While both are crucial components of estate planning, they serve different purposes at different points of time.
A living will guides medical decisions during your lifetime, while a Will dictates the distribution of your assets and end of life wishes, after death. Having both documents in place ensures that your estate plan is comprehensive of both your end of life and after death wishes.
Who Needs a Living Will?
Everyone can benefit from having a living Will/ advanced healthcare directive. Regardless of age or health status, the uncertainty of the future applies to all. Having this form of legal protection in place can provide peace of mind, knowing there's provisions in place to protect your health wishes.
This being said, individuals with specific medical conditions, a strong desire to maintain control over their medical care, or those who want to relieve their loved ones from making difficult decisions, should consider creating a living Will.
This can be especially relevant for those with chronic illnesses, terminal conditions, or those undergoing risky medical procedures.
To sum up why you might want to consider an advance healthcare directive, we’ve included a quick list below:
Ensuring Your Wishes Are Honoured: A living Will gives you control over critical medical decisions, ensuring your preferences are followed in challenging situations.
Reducing Stress for Loved Ones: By clearly stating your healthcare choices, you alleviate the burden on your family and loved ones of making these decisions on your behalf.
Preventing Conflicts: Similarly, in removing this decision stress, an advanced care directive/ living Will can prevent conflicts among family members or healthcare providers if different opinions arise.
Maintaining Dignity: A living Will empowers you to maintain control of your end-of-life care and treatment options
Each Australian state has different rules and stipulations over advanced healthcare directives. It’s important to seek legal advice on the state specific requirements and laws for this provision- ensuring that anything you put in place will be recognised by the relevant courts.
When setting out end of life wishes, it’s crucial to discuss these specifics with your loved ones and healthcare providers. This ensures complete understanding, and provides the opportunity to explain your decisions and increase acceptance ahead of time.
In communicating openly on this difficult topic, you take further steps to minimise potential stress, conflict and upset in the future- helping to further ensure your wishes are carried out when the time comes.
While it is not mandatory to hire a lawyer to obtain a living will, consulting with an estate planning lawyer can provide peace of mind and ensure that the document meets all legal requirements for your state.
A trusted lawyer can also help address complex situations or unique circumstances that may require expert guidance.
The cost of obtaining a living Will can vary depending on several factors, such as the complexity of your situation and whether you choose to work with a solicitor. Here are a few cost considerations to keep in mind:
Estate Lawyer Fees: If you decide to work with an estate planning attorney, their fees will typically depend on their experience, location, and the complexity of your living Will. Solicitor fees can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, and can escalate if complications arise.
Online Will Services: Using online platforms can be a more affordable option to obtain this peace of mind. With prices ranging from $50 to $200, it’s important to research the details
Legal Aid Organisations: In some cases, low-income individuals may qualify for assistance from legal aid organisations or pro bono services. These resources can help minimise or eliminate the cost of obtaining a living will.
Whilst obtaining a living WIll often comes with an additional cost, it’s important to remember this legal legislation is an investment in protecting your healthcare wishes in the future. Crucially, it’s also a powerful way to provide peace of mind for your loved ones
Obtaining a living Will/ advanced healthcare directive is a crucial step in effective estate planning- ensuring that your medical wishes are respected and your loved ones are protected from future stress of difficult decisions.
By understanding what a living Will entails, the differences from a traditional will, and who can benefit from having one, you can take proactive steps to look after yourself, and your family, in the future.
Whether you choose to work with an attorney, utilise online resources, or seek guidance from legal aid organisations, it's important to ensure that your living Will meets the legal requirements of your state.
Take control of your future by creating a comprehensive estate plan, including an advanced healthcare directive, which reflects your wishes and values.
Start the process today and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing your voice will be heard when it matters most.
Reach out today on 1800 10 33 10 or get in touch via live chat, to get started now.