When it comes to estate planning and wills, you have a variety of options for legal documents. The most common of these options is a “last will and testament,” which is also known simply as a “will.” But you may have also heard people talk about a “living will” and wonder what that is, and whether you need a living will in addition to a regular last will and testament.
Both terms describe important legal documents used in estate planning, but their purpose and function differ significantly. In this article, we will review some of the most critical things you need to know about living wills and why having a living will is essential to every adult’s estate plan. And it may be that a living will is even more important than a last will and testament.
What Is A Living Will?
A living will, also called an advance healthcare directive, or a declaration relating to life sustaining treatments is a legal document that tells your loved ones and doctors your end-of-life decisions. Specifically, a living will outlines the procedures, medications, and treatments you would want and would not want to prolong your life if you cannot make such decisions yourself.
For example, within the terms of your living will, you can articulate certain decisions, such as if and when you would want life support removed should you ever require it and whether you would want hydration and nutrition supplied to prolong your life.
Living Will vs. Last Will And Testament
Upon death, a last will and testament is used to dictate how your assets are distributed after you die. In contrast, a living will is about you, not your assets. And it operates in the event of your incapacity, not your death.
In other words, a last will tells others what you want to happen to your wealth and property after you die, while a living will tells others how you want your end-of life treatment managed before you have died. And that can be really important for you and your loved ones!
Living Will vs. Power of Attorney for Health Care (or Health Care Instructions) NOTE: terms sometimes differ and other times are used interchangeably – always obtain the guidance of a qualified attorney regarding these matters.
A power of attorney for health care (or health care instructions or medical power of attorney) is an instrument that allows you to name a person, known as your “attorney in fact for health care” or “health care representative” or “agent” to make healthcare decisions for you if you are incapacitated and unable to make those decisions yourself. NOTE: the terminology will differ depending on your state. Amongst other instructions, guidance regarding your wishes may be able to be included in instrument so that the person making decisions for you has direction as to how you wish for them to handle your care in the event of your incapacity.
A living will on the other hand explains how you would want your end of life care handled.
Why Having A Living Will Is So Important
A living will is a vital part of every adult’s estate plan, as it can ensure your end-of-life treatment is handled exactly the way you want if you cannot communicate your needs and wishes. Additionally, a living will can prevent your family from undergoing needless trauma and conflict during an already trying time.
Without a living will, your family would have to guess what treatments you might want, and your loved ones are likely to experience stress and guilt over the decisions they make on your behalf. In worst cases, your family members could even end up battling one another in court.
Should You Rely On A Living Will Created Online?
While there is a wide selection of living wills, medical power of attorney, and other advance directive documents online, you likely want more guidance and peace of mind than is available through an online service to support you to address such critical decisions adequately. Regarding your medical treatment and end-of-life care, you have unique needs and wishes that cannot be anticipated or adequately addressed by generic documents or without the counseling and guidance we can provide through your decision-making process.
To ensure your directives are tailored to suit your unique situation, work with experienced estate planning professionals like us, to support you to create and/or review your living will.
How We Can Help
Even if you have a professionally prepared and well-thought-out living will, it won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on if nobody knows about it. A living will comes into effect the second you sign it, so you should immediately inform your agent, alternate agents, primary care physician, and other medical specialists of its existence.
And since unforeseen illness or injury could strike at any time. Don’t wait to plan your will. Contact us to get this critical document in place. Call us today to schedule an appointment.
This article is a service of a Personal Family Lawyer®. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.
The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.