What is the difference between a last will and a living will?

If you’re considering writing a will, you might be wondering what the difference is between a last will and a living will. Both of the terms are used frequently and are often used in the same context, which can be confusing when you’re trying to plan for the future.

While they are both important estate planning tools, there are major differences between the two. It’s important to fully understand what each of these important documents encompasses.

One of the biggest distinctions between the two is when the wills actually come into play. A living will, as the name suggests, is intended for use while the person is alive. A last will and testament is used after a person has died.

A living will is also referred to as an advance directive. It’s generally used to give caregivers instructions on terminal medical situations and end-of-life care, such as whether you would like to be kept on life support. You can lay out your desired wishes, or you could name someone else to make those decisions on your behalf.

A last will and testament outlines how you would like your property and assets distributed after you pass away. If you have minor children, you can also choose the person or people you would like to appoint as guardians. You can name an executor of your will, who will take care of your financial obligations. You can even choose someone to be the caretaker of your pets.

Creating living wills and last wills are integral parts of estate planning. The rules about any kind of will vary by state, so it’s best to talk to an attorney when you are ready to begin making an estate plan.