Many people who hear “living will” automatically think of their last will and testament and assume they are one and the same. But the reality is that these are two separate and important documents that serve unique purposes, and when it comes to creating an effective estate planning strategy, you should strongly consider having both in your back pocket.
They each go a long way in letting your wishes be known about various important matters. And when combined, you give your family unrivaled peace of mind about the future and the steps they should take in the event of incapacity or death.
What is a last will and testament?
A will is a legal document that spells out your final wishes upon death — whatever those wishes might be. It is typically the first step in any estate planning strategy, providing you with control over how things play out moving forward rather than leaving key decisions in the hands of judges or state officials. A typical will includes:
- How your assets should be distributed
- Who gets what, and how much
- Details for final arrangements
- Who should care for your minor children and pets
- Who is in charge (executor) of making sure all of this happens
How is a living will different?
A living will, also largely referred to as advanced healthcare directives, differs from your will in that it is a list of instructions for medical personnel should you become incapacitated and can no longer make decisions for yourself. A person can become incapacitated in a variety of ways, whether through an accident or an illness such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. As a result, you won’t be able to communicate as it relates to issues such as:
- Life-sustaining or emergency medical tests, procedures, and surgeries
- Which medications are used and under which circumstances
- What kind of treatment or long-term care you want or don’t want
- Organ donation
- CPR preferences
A living will or advanced healthcare directive also names the person(s) who can make additional healthcare decisions.
Regardless of whether we’re talking about a last will and testament or a living will, both documents ensure everything is managed according to your wishes rather than loved ones being stuck in an overwhelming guessing game.
True estate planning covers all your bases. Our attorneys will help you to create legal instruments to distribute your assets according to your wishes, nominate a guardian for minor children, minimize family disputes, avoid probate and estate administration, and plan for incapacity. Where you fall in that conversation may not be clearly defined until we can sit down, dive into your unique situation, and determine the best course for everyone involved.
Please call Christman Ramsey & Foster, PC, for your legal needs today!
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