Southlake Business Law, Estate Planning & Mediation Services
Call Our Firm Today 817.203.2815

The Difference Between a Will and Living Will

Many people do not know this, but there are many differences between a will and a living will. Both of these documents are intended to give instructions to the applicable people in situations where you are not personally able to communicate with them. A living will, however, is concentrated on health care decisions for you when you are still alive. A will, also known as a last will and testament, expresses your wishes and preferences after you are deceased.

A last will and testament, thus, does not have any legal impact until after you have died. At this point, once you are deceased, it has to be filed with a probate court. In contrast, a living will does take effect when you are still alive, although it generally does not take effect until you are physically and/or mentally incapacitated.

Both of these documents have the capability of nominating an individual to take action on the behalf of the incapacitated or deceased person. Any will should name an executor. This individual is the one who will be responsible for taking inventory of your estate, paying your debts, and distributing the rest of it among the people that you have designated as beneficiaries. However, you should keep in mind that the final decision on who is appointed the executor of your will is made by the probate court.

In the case of a living will, a particular person can be appointed as your health care agent. This person will then be able to make decisions regarding your medical treatment, and the decision as to who is your health care agent does not need to be approved by a court. The main function of a living will is to give the proper instructions to your health care providers and make your preference is clear in regards to your treatment. For example, this document, which in many states is also known as an advanced health care directive, will express your preferences on the issue of life support. When you are constructing your living well, you can express whether or not you would like to be kept alive by artificial means if the situation arises.

In the case of a last will and testament, your preferences about what will happen to your property and other assets will be expressed. Additionally, this will can be used to appoint a guardian for any minor children you may have, as well as disabled family members that require care. However, the directions that you express in your will can only be followed with the property that remains after all of your debts have been paid. Any assets that you hold jointly with another person or that have a beneficiary will not be controlled by a will and do not need the approval of a probate court.

As you can see, although there are many similarities between a living will and a will, they are used for entirely different purposes. If you would like to learn more or are in the process of constructing one of these documents for yourself or a loved one, you should definitely speak to a lawyer in order to make sure that you are following all proper protocol.

Call us today to discuss your needs.