What is a Will

Estate planning is overwhelming. Thinking about the end of your life is emotionally difficult, and understanding the different documents you need to have in place is confusing. To make things even more complicated, many of the terms are similar.

A living will allows you to communicate how much intervention and treatment you’d want in a critical health emergency. Imagine you’re in a serious car accident. This was unexpected, so you had no time to discuss your preferences with your spouse ahead of time. You can’t breathe on your own, so you need a ventilator, but your chances of recovery are slim. If you don’t have a living will, your spouse is left to make the decision about whether to proceed with life support on their own. Avoid putting your spouse through this turmoil by seeking an experienced wills attorney today.

What If You Don’t Have a Living Will?

As similar as they sound, wills and living wills are two very different documents. Both are essential parts of creating a solid end-of-life plan. It’s important to document where you want your assets to go and how you want your healthcare to be handled if you become incapacitated. If you don’t make these decisions while you’re alive and healthy, your loved ones, doctors, and the courts won’t know what you would have wanted.

When it comes to medical decisions, everyone has different feelings about how much intervention they would want during a serious health crisis. A living will is your place to specify whether you would want life support, a feeding tube, CPR, or other treatments. If you don’t have a living will, your loved ones will have to make these difficult decisions on their own without guidance from you.

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The Difference Between Wills and Living Wills

While the names are similar, these are two very different legal documents. When you create your estate plan, it’s important to set up both to ensure that your financial and healthcare wishes are respected. Either way, its best to have a trusted wills lawyer on your side.


A will specifies how you want your material assets distributed after your death and who should oversee that process. You can also indicate your preferences for guardians for your minor children. Wills are an important estate planning tool. You’ll need to keep the original document, as copies aren’t legally binding.

Living Will

A living will applies while you are still alive but are unable to make decisions for yourself. It deals with the types of medical interventions you’d want if you’re seriously ill or injured. This can include intubation, feeding tubes, CPR, and other life support measures. Your living will should clearly explain what you do and do not want to happen in terms of medical care at the end of your life.

To make sure your wishes are honored, give your primary care doctor a copy of your living will. You should also give copies to any other doctors who are treating you and to close family members who you trust to respect your wishes. Unlike wills, you do not need to have the original document for your living will to be honored.

Other Related Terms

In addition to wills and living wills, there are several more terms that are either related or similar-sounding. An advance directive is very similar to a living will, and will generally convey the same information to your loved ones and healthcare providers. More specifically, a living will is a type of advance directive that deals with the end of your life.

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A healthcare proxy is a person you give the right to make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re incapacitated. A healthcare power of attorney has a similar role. However, there are other types of power of attorney, such as those who can make financial decisions on your behalf when necessary. With both a healthcare proxy and a healthcare POA, you’re designating someone to make decisions for you, not necessarily specifying what you’d like those decisions to be.

A living trust sounds similar to a living will but is actually completely different. A living trust is an estate planning structure in which you place your assets into a trust and designate beneficiaries for that trust. Trusts are a good way to avoid probate while maintaining control of your assets. They have nothing to do with healthcare.

How an Estate Attorney Can Help

Trying to sort out all the different estate and end-of-life planning documents you need can easily become overwhelming. Contact an estate administration attorney to create a comprehensive plan that includes both a will and a living will.


Is a living will the same thing as an advanced directive?

A living will is a specific type of advanced directive that deals will end of life issues.

Do I need both a will and a living will?

Yes. You need both documents to ensure that both your financial and healthcare wishes are honored.

Can I write a living will on my own?

You can, but working with an attorney will increase the chances of your living will being followed.

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