Living Will Versus Last Will and Testament: What Are The Differences?

When it comes to Wills, they are not all created equal. Living Wills and Last Wills and Testaments serve two very different purposes. When considering how to utilize these documents, always consult a trusted attorney.

A Living Will is a document that outlines specific desires in regards to personal and medical care in the event that you are unable to make the decisions yourself — for example, if you’re unconscious due to an illness or accident. Typically, a Living Will does not go into effect until it has been determined that you are entirely incapacitated. You can outline things from certain medical interventions you do or do not want, certain types of medications you do not want to have administered, CPR preferences (similar to, but slightly different than a DNR order), and even organ donation wishes. A Living Will not only protects you from unwanted medical interventions, but also protects your loved ones from having to guess your wishes and instead have peace of mind knowing how you would like to be treated.

On the other hand, a Last Will and Testament enumerates what is to be done with any property you own — real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, personal items, etc. — after you die. The key here is after you die; the distribution of those assets does not take place until you have passed away and the executor, who you will identify in the document, reviews your Will and begins to distribute that property once any debts have been addressed. You can also name guardians for minor children or dependents in your Will so that they will be cared for after you pass away. A Last Will and Testament can be changed or completely revoked up until the time of your death. If you pass away without a Last Will and Testament, your property will be subject to your state’s specific laws that determine who gets your property, which is oftentimes very different than an individual’s actual desires.

You should consider utilizing both of these documents in order to arrange your wishes in a way that will help support and guide your loved ones in the event of your inability to communicate them yourself, whether you pass away or become medically incapable of advocating for yourself. Having both a Will and a Living Will ensures not only your wishes are met by your loved ones and by professionals, but it also protects your family from having to make difficult decisions on your behalf without guidance.

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