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The Difference Between A Living Will And Will

Although the terms “living will” and “will” sound alike, they are different components of an overall estate plan.

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Many Americans think that estate planning and getting a will are the same thing. However, estate planning is so much more than “getting a will.” Estate planning includes assessing who and what is important to you, and then implementing a series of strategies and legal documentation so that protections are in place for you, what you’ve accumulated, and the people who mean the most to you. The following addresses the difference between a living will and a last will and testament.

What’s included in a Living Will?

You have the right to control your health care decisions, including the decision to have life-sustaining procedures withdrawn when you have a terminal and irreversible condition. You can sign a living will to instruct your physician to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining procedures under certain circumstances. Some states include life-sustaining decisions within an advance healthcare directive.

Many people gain comfort in signing a living will because they do not want to lose the personal dignity that comes with the burdensome existence of being terminally ill when nothing can be medically beneficial to the person. This is ultimately your choice.

What’s included in a Last Will & Testament?

A last will and testament, also simply referred to as a “will”, describes what you want to happen with your property and assets when you pass away. Your well-prepared will can accomplish all of the following:

  • Designate the recipient of certain assets
  • Specify who receives the rest of your estate after specific assets get addressed
  • Select your executor and state their powers
  • Designate the guardian of any minor children you have
  • Leave your assets to one or more trusts

Most people want to have the control that comes with preparing a will. Without a will, your state government dictates who inherits from you.

Living Will vs. Last Will & Testament - MyAdvocate Estate Planning

Although the terms Will and Living Will sound alike, they are different parts of an overall estate plan. A Will, formally known as a Last Will and Testament, is a document where people leave their assets to their desired beneficiaries. A Living Will is a document in which you specify what treatment you would want or not want to be used to keep you alive.

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About the author

MyAdvocate Team

This post was written by MyAdvocate's team of estate planning attorneys.