Will vs. Living Will – what’s the difference?

Will vs Living Will

There’s a lot of documentation that goes into planning for you or a loved one’s death, and sometimes the details of it are complicated to sift through…a common confusion we hear about is a will vs. a living will. Put simply, a Last Will and Testament states what will happen to your assets, property and minor children after you die. Whereas a living will dictates your personal wishes concerning medical treatments while you are still alive, but possibly unable to express these wishes. Let’s break down the details below:


A will gives you the choice of what happens to your property and possessions after you pass away. With this legal document, you can appoint an executor to settle your final affairs, They will ensure your beneficiaries (heirs listed in your will) receive their inheritance. You will also decide how your property will be allotted and who will raise your children in the incident both you and your spouse are unable to care for them.

Creating a will is very important as dying without one means State laws decide how your assets are distributed and handled – including your young children. (It may not be to you or your family’s liking!). When making your own will, you are also able to structure it wisely to help avoid certain estate taxes, protect your beneficiaries from creditors and space out the distribution as you see fit. A Will only goes into effect after a person has died, it can be edited, changed and adapted up until that point.

Living Will

On the other hand, a living will memorializes your health care preferences so that those making these decisions is aware of what you want done if you are unable to make these choices. Decisions that arise when crafting a living will include: choosing whether or not you would like to be kept on life support if there is no hope of recovery, and what level of care and support you would like to receive if you fall into a coma or a severe accident occurs. It tends to be limited to medical wishes regarding: a terminal illness, an injury, or permanent unconsciousness.

As you can imagine, it is hard to foresee every possibility that may arise. Therefore, you may choose to prepare a health care proxy which grants a trusted individual permission to make health care decisions on your behalf. They can use the living will as a guide when making these choices in order to best interpret what you would want in the situations.

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