A Last Will and Testament is Not a Living Will

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Many people working on their estate documentation are unfamiliar with these terms. This is, of course, understandable, as such legal documents are not often discussed at length in public. The two types of Will are completely separate, and govern very different situations.

Differences Between Last Will and Testament and Living Will

A Last Will and Testament only provides instructions for what happens after you die.

A Living Will is a healthcare directive, and provides instructions for what should happen while you are still alive, in case you are unable to communicate — in case you are comatose, for example.

As Notary Bulletin helps explain,  your Last Will and Testament helps you govern what happens to your assets after you die; which of your friends and relatives receive which furniture, or investment accounts, or any other worldly goods.

If you have children under the age of 18, this document will also clarify which adults will take over guardianship and custody of those children.

For a Living Will, the instructions in the document only refer to you yourself, not your beneficiaries. A Living Will is essentially a set of “what if” statements. “If I require CPR, please administer any resuscitation techniques the medical personnel deem appropriate,” for example.

If your health condition is such that you cannot provide instructions on your own behalf, then the Living Will can explain to medical providers — and to your family and friends — how you would want to be treated and cared for. It governs all of your healthcare preferences, and lets you choose in advance what you would want done, or not done.