What is the Difference Between a Living Will and a Will?

When it comes to estate planning many people have heard of a will, but fewer people may be familiar with a living will. These two legal documents serve different purposes, and it’s important to understand the difference between them. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between a living will and a will and provide practical answers to some common questions.

 

What is a will?

A will is a legal document that outlines how a person’s assets will be distributed after they pass away. It can also name an executor who is responsible for carrying out the wishes outlined in the will.

A will can be used to distribute assets, such as property and money and can also name a guardian for any minor children. In order for a will to be legally valid it must meet certain requirements, such as being signed in the presence of witnesses.

What is a living will?

A living will, also known as an advance directive, is a legal document that outlines a person’s wishes for medical treatment in the event that they become unable to make decisions for themselves. This can include decisions about life-sustaining treatment, such as whether to be kept on a ventilator or receive artificial hydration and nutrition.

Unlike a traditional will, a living will only take effect while the person is still alive. It’s important to note that a living will is not the same as a durable power of attorney for healthcare, which allows someone else to make medical decisions on your behalf.

What is the difference between a will and a living will?

The main difference between a will and a living will is that a will outlines how a person’s assets will be distributed after they pass away, while a living will outline a person’s wishes for medical treatment in the event that they become unable to make decisions for themselves.

Another important difference is that a will must go through the probate process in order for the assets to be distributed to heirs, while a living will typically does not need to go through probate.

Who needs a will and a living will?

Anyone who has assets that they would like to distribute after they pass away should have a will. This includes people who own property, have money in bank accounts, or have retirement accounts.

A living will is important for anyone who wants to ensure that their wishes for medical treatment are respected if they become unable to make decisions for themselves. This can be particularly important for people with serious medical conditions or who are undergoing medical treatments that could potentially leave them unable to make decisions.

While a will and a living will are both important legal documents, they serve different purposes. It’s important for anyone who has assets they would like to distribute or who wants to ensure that their medical wishes are respected to have both a will and a living will. By working with an experienced estate planning attorney, you can ensure that your wishes are respected and your loved ones are provided for.

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