Living Will vs. Will

Estate planning is one of the most important parts of planning for your future, especially as you begin to age. It can also be extremely complicated, especially when it comes to distinguishing between the living will vs. the last will and testament. These are two very important documents that, although similar in name, cover two different important aspects of directives for your future. The team of Orange County will attorneys at Evolution Tax and Legal is breaking down the living will and the will: what they are, what the difference is and the importance of these documents in your estate planning journey.

What Is a Living Will?

A living will is an important legal document in which you will help ensure that medical decisions made on your behalf in the future, should become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for yourself, follow your wishes. These types of decisions include anything from the types of medications you will accept to what extraordinary measures you would like taken, such as the use of feeding tubes, life support and resuscitation in extreme scenarios. Living wills come into play in situations where you are deemed mentally unfit to make decisions for yourself, or if you are physically unable to make these decisions. This can include a wide variety of situations, anything from a car accident to the onset of dementia. A living will can help ensure that you dictate the medical decisions you want to be made, long before they will ever need to be made.

What’s the Difference Between a Will and a Living Will?

While a living will is more of a medical directive that helps your healthcare proxy, family and doctors make decisions on your behalf should you become incapable of doing so on your own, a will is a legal document that guides your loved ones and the legal system about how you would like your estate to be distributed after you have died. A living will comes into play while you are still alive and relates to medical decisions, while a will comes into play after you are gone, and relates more to financial decisions about your estate.

Common Living Will Comparisons

Living wills are very important, but they are not the only important estate planning document you should be aware of. There are a variety of different estate planning components that all work in tandem to ensure that your loved ones can respect your decisions once you are unable to decide for yourself, and once you have passed on.

Living Will vs. Living Trust

As explained above, a living will help provide guidance on your medical wishes so decisions can be made on your behalf once you are deemed unable to make the decisions on your own. A living trust, while similarly named, is very different. The purpose of a living trust is to help you manage your estate through a trust while you are still alive. A living trust can help you set up for an easy transition of your assets to your beneficiaries once you are gone, and it ensures you can oversee the planning process for this transition while you are still alive.

Revocable Living Trust vs. Will

A revocable living trust is very similar to a living trust in that it helps an estate holder begin to plan for the distribution of their assets to beneficiaries before they are deceased. A revocable trust is a type of living trust that is very easy to make changes to, whereas an irrevocable trust is a more permanent type of trust that can be difficult to change once it has been established. While your will is also a type of financial directive that helps guide your loved ones and the courts on distributing your estate to beneficiaries once you are gone, unlike a revocable living trust it does not offer any sort of asset protection, help optimize estate tax benefits or help avoid the probate process.

Advanced Directive vs. Living Will

An advanced directive is essentially the directions you leave for your loved ones to guide them in making medical decisions once you are no longer of sound mind and body. A living will is technically a type of advanced directive that can become effective once doctors determine you are no longer capable of making decisions on your own behalf. They are very similar documents, and can often be a similar means to the same end which is ensuring the medical decisions made on your behalf respect the wishes you expressed while you were still of sound mind.

Living Will vs. Durable Power of Attorney

While a living will is the document explaining your medical directives, a durable power of attorney is the person you name who is responsible for following your living will to make the medical decisions on your behalf. The durable power of attorney is important because it gives the person you have named the power to make these decisions even when you become incapacitated.

Living Will vs. DNR

A living will may include a DNR, which is a document station that you do not want to be resuscitated, or given other extraordinary measures if your heart stops, but they are still two different documents. A living will is more of a legal document, which needs to be witnessed and signed by two other people aside from you in order to be valid. A DNR is a medical document, which needs only to be signed by the patient and the doctor to be valid and legal.

Consider a Will and Living Will for Your Estate Plan

Estate planning is very complicated, and there are many aspects of the process and many legal documents which work together in tandem to create a comprehensive estate plan. This plan is put in place to protect your wishes in the future, and help your family understand the decisions you want to make, to ensure the process after you pass is as seamless as possible. The team at Evolution Tax and Legal understands that estate planning is a very personal process that needs a special attention to detail, while also needing the knowledge and expertise to understand the legality and importance of all the documents. Our team is prepared to help you begin the estate planning process with a personalized touch, and provide the guidance you need to ensure your future is taken care of. Contact us to learn more about estate planning today.

June 10, 2022

Posted on

ready to get started?

schedule your free consultation today!

Expect to hear from our team in less than 24 hours. 

schedule your free consultation today!

or call us at
(949) 229-6015

Our team appreciates your time. We will reach out shortly to discuss next steps. 

Thank you!