The entire term “last will and testament” is generally just referred to as a standard will these days, but traditionally the will was used to elucidate the desired distribution of real property while the testament was used to distribute personal property. The will now serves both functions and it is the most commonly used vehicle of asset transfer and for the most part it needs no explanation.
Because the standard will involves the distribution of assets it is natural for the uninitiated to assume that a living will somehow facilitates asset transfer as well. So the living will is often confused with the living trust, which is used to arrange asset transfer to the heirs of the grantor. However, the living will is something else entirely.
The living will, commonly referred to as an advance health care directive in California, is used to state your preferences with regard to medical procedures and to appointment someone to make medical decisions for you if you cannot do so yourself. If you were to fall into an incapacitated state you may not be able to express your answers to important health care questions in real-time. Through the execution of a living will you record your wishes with regard to the types of medical procedures that you would be willing to accept and those that you would prefer to deny. For the most part the issue of whether or not you would want to be kept alive through the use of artificial means when you’re in an unresponsive or terminal condition is at the heart of the living will document.
If you do not have a living will or any other advance health care directive in place at present it is certainly something that you should keep in mind. Decisions such as these are highly personal and you would be placing your loved ones in a very difficult position if they were to be forced to act in your behalf without knowing how you would like to proceed under such a circumstance. If you are without this critical planning document, work with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney to create one.