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What Is a Living Will?

Published on July 27th, 2021

Will Lawyer

Deciding what will happen to you at the end of your life can seem like a daunting prospect, but it is a necessary one if you want full control of such matters. As a will lawyer from a firm like W.B. Moore Law can explain, if you become unable to communicate how you want medical staff to treat you, you will need a living will.

What Is the Purpose of a Living Will?

The purpose of a conventional will is to have in writing your intentions of how your estate will be distributed after you die, but a living will is different in that it is a legally binding document that tells your healthcare providers how you want to be treated in the event you can no longer communicate your wants. It can also tell your healthcare providers under what conditions you wish to be resuscitated and whether you want to be fed with a feeding tube, for instance. These are called Do Not Resuscitate and Do Not Intubate orders, respectively.

A living will does not have anything to do with the planning of your estate, however. That is what a living trust is for.

How Does a Living Will Differ From a Living Trust?

Unlike a living trust, a living will requires a state probate court to decide on the distribution of your estate and to ensure your debts will be paid after you die. A living will is also limited in its power in that it cannot determine who will have the Power of Attorney, who is the person with the legal authority to determine legal matters for you if you cannot.

Creating a living will is a slower process than a living trust. It is also more affordable upfront. However, when the costs of a probate court are factored in, it may end up being more expensive than a living trust.

Do You Only Need a Living Will for Estate Planning?

If you want full control of your end-of-life care, the distribution of your estate, and your family affairs, you will want a living trust, possibly in addition to a living will. While a living will can describe your intentions for end-of-life care, it cannot legally decide how your assets will be distributed after you die. This requires a living trust.

If you wish to create a living will, contact an estate planning lawyer who will detail and help you through your options for both end-of-life care and the distribution of your estate.

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