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Differences Between a Will and Living Will

Despite sharing a similar name, there are few commonalities between a will and a living will. Each is a legal document that is typically considered an essential part of comprehensive estate planning. Both deal with end-of-life decision-making and ensuring that your wishes are carried out once you cannot decide for yourself.

However, beyond that, a will and a living will have distinctly different purposes. One document only becomes effective once you are no longer among the living. The other one details your fundamental choices regarding health care after you become incapacitated.

Both wills and living wills are governed by state law. And state law regarding each document can vary from one location to another. Ensure both your will and your living will comply with all the laws of your state.

To properly make sure you are prepared for your life's latter stages, it is advisable to not only draft both a will and living will but update them frequently. Having each in place and updated to reflect your most current choices will help your loved ones, caregiver, or guardian navigate difficult legal and financial decisions.

Read more:Power ofAttorney for Elderly Parent

This article details the basics of will and living wills while also discussing the differences between the two important documents.

What Is a Will?

A will, also known as a last will and testament, directs the division of your assets after your death. In a will, you appoint an executor to have the legal authority to settle your estate. A will only takes effect once you have died.

If you do not have a valid, enforceable will when you pass, state law will direct the division of your assets. You will have no say in how your wealth is distributed. For example, if you have a child or other beneficiary you want to receive title to your house, you will need a will. Without it, your home - as an asset - will be divided amongst all your heirs based on your state’s law.

What Is a Living Will?

To ensure your medical and health care wishes are carried out even if you become incapacitated, you need to sign a living will. Unlike a last will and testament, this document deals with issues while you are alive.

A living will deals with many unclear eventualities. For example, it can come into effect if you have been in a severe accident, suffered a tragic injury, or become debilitated from a long-term disease. The essential factor is that, due to your health, you are unable to take charge of your health care and make medical decisions for yourself.

Instead, your living will provides instructions for how you want to deal with common eventualities. For example, you can state whether you wish to be kept alive via life support machines. Conversely, a living will can also provide clear evidence that you did not want to be kept alive via a feeding tube in a hospital .

How Does a Will Work?

Upon your death, your property and assets enter into an estate. If you have a valid last will and testament, your chosen executor will then have the legal power to settle your estate.

While not an agent, your executor has a fiduciary duty to your estate and must work in its best interests as governed by your will. Closing or settling your estate includes resolving any debts you may have left behind before distributing your remaining assets.

Your will can outline direct bequeaths regarding property, heirlooms, or items with sentimental value. For example, you can direct that your son receive a favorite piece of furniture. However, you can also simply use your will to instruct that your assets be divided by predetermined percentages. So long as it complies with state law, you can hypothetically instruct that your spouse receive 70% of your leftover assets, with the remainder divided equally amongst your surviving children.

Certain types of assets that can pass directly to your beneficiaries, such as insurance, annuities, retirement accounts, and some financial trusts.

How Does a Living Will Work?

A living will can also be referred to as an advance directive for healthcare. This is precisely how it sounds, where you are directing your medical wishes before they are needed. Because state laws surrounding living wills vary regarding enforceability, you may want to consult a local lawyer when drafting your document.

A living will becomes effective once it is clear that you are unlikely to recover from your incapacitation. In most instances, you will appoint a health care proxy in a living will. This individual will have the power to act on your behalf and make end-of-life decisions. However, the proxy will try to best carry out your desires as stated in the living will.

There are a nearly infinite amount of situations that can be detailed in a living will. For most people, a basic living will covers common outcomes such as: life support machines, feeding tubes, breathing tubes, and vegetative states.

You can also use a living will to clearly convey your desires regarding organ donation.

Will vs. Living Will

The following chart displays some of the key differences between a will and a living will.

Will Living Will
Public document Yes, probate court can review your will. No, it is a private document.
Who can use it Your executor after you pass. Your health care proxy once you are incapacitated.
Takes care of Finances. Health care.
Time to take effect After your death. After your incapacitation.
Agent considerations No agency created. Health care proxy can be your agent.
Uses Divides assets of your estate. Records your end-of-life health care choices.

As part of essential estate planning, both a last will and testament and a living will are crucial documents. Each has various uses to make sure that your choices are memorialized and carried out once you can no longer stand up for yourself.

Having valid, enforceable documents like wills and living wills in place before you need them will help your loved ones ensure they carry out your last wishes. You can easily create legal documents online using LawDistrict.com. Our easy-to-use templates will help you draft individually-tailored contracts in just a few minutes!

Differences Between a Will and Living Will

Despite sharing a similar name, there are few commonalities between a will and a living will. Each is a legal document that is typically considered an essential part of comprehensive estate planning. Both deal with end-of-life decision-making and ensuring that your wishes are carried out once you cannot decide for yourself.

However, beyond that, a will and a living will have distinctly different purposes. One document only becomes effective once you are no longer among the living. The other one details your fundamental choices regarding health care after you become incapacitated.

Both wills and living wills are governed by state law. And state law regarding each document can vary from one location to another. Ensure both your will and your living will comply with all the laws of your state.

To properly make sure you are prepared for your life's latter stages, it is advisable to not only draft both a will and living will but update them frequently. Having each in place and updated to reflect your most current choices will help your loved ones, caregiver, or guardian navigate difficult legal and financial decisions.

Read more:Power ofAttorney for Elderly Parent

This article details the basics of will and living wills while also discussing the differences between the two important documents.

What Is a Will?

A will, also known as a last will and testament, directs the division of your assets after your death. In a will, you appoint an executor to have the legal authority to settle your estate. A will only takes effect once you have died.

If you do not have a valid, enforceable will when you pass, state law will direct the division of your assets. You will have no say in how your wealth is distributed. For example, if you have a child or other beneficiary you want to receive title to your house, you will need a will. Without it, your home - as an asset - will be divided amongst all your heirs based on your state’s law.

What Is a Living Will?

To ensure your medical and health care wishes are carried out even if you become incapacitated, you need to sign a living will. Unlike a last will and testament, this document deals with issues while you are alive.

A living will deals with many unclear eventualities. For example, it can come into effect if you have been in a severe accident, suffered a tragic injury, or become debilitated from a long-term disease. The essential factor is that, due to your health, you are unable to take charge of your health care and make medical decisions for yourself.

Instead, your living will provides instructions for how you want to deal with common eventualities. For example, you can state whether you wish to be kept alive via life support machines. Conversely, a living will can also provide clear evidence that you did not want to be kept alive via a feeding tube in a hospital .

How Does a Will Work?

Upon your death, your property and assets enter into an estate. If you have a valid last will and testament, your chosen executor will then have the legal power to settle your estate.

While not an agent, your executor has a fiduciary duty to your estate and must work in its best interests as governed by your will. Closing or settling your estate includes resolving any debts you may have left behind before distributing your remaining assets.

Your will can outline direct bequeaths regarding property, heirlooms, or items with sentimental value. For example, you can direct that your son receive a favorite piece of furniture. However, you can also simply use your will to instruct that your assets be divided by predetermined percentages. So long as it complies with state law, you can hypothetically instruct that your spouse receive 70% of your leftover assets, with the remainder divided equally amongst your surviving children.

Certain types of assets that can pass directly to your beneficiaries, such as insurance, annuities, retirement accounts, and some financial trusts.

How Does a Living Will Work?

A living will can also be referred to as an advance directive for healthcare. This is precisely how it sounds, where you are directing your medical wishes before they are needed. Because state laws surrounding living wills vary regarding enforceability, you may want to consult a local lawyer when drafting your document.

A living will becomes effective once it is clear that you are unlikely to recover from your incapacitation. In most instances, you will appoint a health care proxy in a living will. This individual will have the power to act on your behalf and make end-of-life decisions. However, the proxy will try to best carry out your desires as stated in the living will.

There are a nearly infinite amount of situations that can be detailed in a living will. For most people, a basic living will covers common outcomes such as: life support machines, feeding tubes, breathing tubes, and vegetative states.

You can also use a living will to clearly convey your desires regarding organ donation.

Will vs. Living Will

The following chart displays some of the key differences between a will and a living will.

Will Living Will
Public document Yes, probate court can review your will. No, it is a private document.
Who can use it Your executor after you pass. Your health care proxy once you are incapacitated.
Takes care of Finances. Health care.
Time to take effect After your death. After your incapacitation.
Agent considerations No agency created. Health care proxy can be your agent.
Uses Divides assets of your estate. Records your end-of-life health care choices.

As part of essential estate planning, both a last will and testament and a living will are crucial documents. Each has various uses to make sure that your choices are memorialized and carried out once you can no longer stand up for yourself.

Having valid, enforceable documents like wills and living wills in place before you need them will help your loved ones ensure they carry out your last wishes. You can easily create legal documents online using LawDistrict.com. Our easy-to-use templates will help you draft individually-tailored contracts in just a few minutes!