You’ve probably heard of the terms “will” and “living will.” However, if you are like most people, it may be confusing to fully understand the differences between these terms. While they are both very different, it is important to implement both into your estate planning. Take a look at what both of these legal documents offer:
A will, also known as a last will and testament, is only effective after you die. It has no effect during your lifetime.
A living will is only effective during your lifetime. It is effective at the end of your life when you are in an irreversible coma, vegetative state, or are terminally ill and at the end of life. Once you die, it is no longer in effect. In California, a living will is not commonly used as a stand alone document. The typical end of life decisions are most commonly incorporated into a document known as an Advance Health Care Directive. In that document, you can also name a health care agent to make health-related decisions when you are no longer able to make them for yourself.
A will is used to appoint an executor, name guardians for your children, and instruct asset distribution. Without a will, the court can make these decisions for you.
A living will makes a healthcare decision ahead of time. This healthcare decision is whether or not you wish to remain on life support and be subject to other medical heroics if you are terminally ill and at the very end of life.
A will is only effective if trusted helpers know where it is located. Make sure that your trusted helpers know where all estate planning documents are kept. It is also a good idea to have a list of usernames and passwords. Your trusted helpers should also be able to easily find your estate planning attorney’s contact information.
A living will is effective if trusted helpers and your medical professionals have it available.
If you have any questions regarding the differences between a will and living will, consult with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney. Such an attorney can help to ensure that you have the proper estate planning in place.