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Explore General Legal Issues

What Is A Living Will And Why Do You Need One?

by Ralph Griffin

A living will is one of many tools you can create and use in your estate plan, but what is it? Many people do not understand what a living will is and therefore do not use it. If you are creating your estate plan, you might want to add a living will for protection. Here are three vital things to understand about these tools.

What a Living Will Is Not

The first place to start is by understanding what a living will is not. A living will is not a last will and testament. A last will and testament is often confused with a living will, but these two things are entirely different. A last will and testament is a tool that allows you to state your wishes related to your assets. The family and court use it to distribute your wealth after death.

The second thing a living will is not is a living trust. A living trust is an entity you create to hold your assets while you are living. The living trust protects your assets and makes it easier to transfer them after you die.

A Living Will Is for Medical Care

Now that you know what a living will is not, you can more easily understand what it is. A living will is a tool that you use for medical care. Lawyers often call this an advance directive for medical care, as it allows you to make medical decisions before you need to make them.

What a Living Will Allows You to Do

If you create a living will before you get terminally ill or incapacitated, you can state what you would like your family and doctors to do for you. Suppose a car accident leaves you unable to move, talk, or even breathe on your own. Do you want to stay on life support, or would you prefer if the doctors terminated the machines, allowing you to pass peacefully?

With a living will, you can also make other decisions, such as if you want to donate your organs when you die. Another question you must answer on a living will is if you want the doctors to resuscitate you if your heart stops beating. Without a living will, your family must decide how to respond to your healthcare needs. With one, the doctors and your family will know how to respond.

If you would like to create a living will or prepare other estate planning documents, talk to an estate planning attorney.