What’s the difference between a will and a living will?

Most people are familiar with a will; but does it have any connection to a living will?

Other than the fact that both are an important part of any estate plan, these are two different documents with very different purposes. A will applies upon your passing. A living will applies only while you are still alive.

As most people know, a will allows you to state who will receive your assets after you pass away. A will also allows parents of young children to name their desired guardians for those children should the parents pass away. It is extremely important for every adult, especially a parent, to have a will. 

A living will is also important, but for a different reason. It addresses your health rather than your assets. A living will allows you to state what you want to happen should you ever end up on life support with no chance of recovery. A living will is the document that tells health care providers if you want to be removed from life support.

If your wishes are not clear, loved ones and health care providers will be left to try and figure out what you would have wanted. That is an extremely difficult position in which to place loved ones while they are already trying to deal with the trauma of your condition. In fact, if you do not leave a living will, serious disputes can arise. Perhaps the most famous example is Terri Schiavo, who was left on life support for 15 years while her family fought over what should happen to her. 

Do not let your family be caught in that extraordinarily painful situation. Let a qualified attorney explain your options and make sure a living will is part of your estate plan.

Garrett Forsgren is a local attorney who provides free estate planning presentations. His office can be reached at 970-245-8021 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Steve Wright is an attorney in Idaho Springs, Idaho.


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