What is a Difference Between a Living Will and a Last Will and Testament?

While a Living Will and a Last Will and Testament share the word "will", there are substantial differences between these two estate planning documents. Depending on your estate planning needs, both of these documents may prove helpful when creating your Arizona estate plan since they address different estate planning issues.

What Is a Living Will?

living will

living will

A Living Will is an essential step to take when preparing for potential medical situations or an illness.

Should you become unable to communicate your wishes relating to important health conditions like being in a vegetative state, a Living Will ensures your wishes will still be honored.

The Living Will is an estate planning document that clearly states the types of medical treatment you would and would not want to receive depending on the medical situation or illness that arises.

There are a few additional benefits of completing a Living Will.

Once you have passed away, a legally valid Living Will can be used to donate organs, allow for an autopsy or how to deal with your remains (burial, cremation, etc.).

If you decide it is time to create a Living Will, make sure to pair this important estate planning document with a completed Health Care Power of Attorney form.

A Health Care Power of Attorney document names a person you trust to have the legal authority needed to direct your health care decisions if you are incapacitated or unable to do so for yourself.

When both of these documents are created in tandem, you can adequately prepare for a wide range of medical issues that may arise in the future, ensuring your health wishes will be carried out.

What Is a Last Will and Testament?

last will and testament

last will and testament

For reference, it is worth stating that the Last Will and Testament is often simplified and referred to as "will".

As such, when you hear people discuss the benefits of having a will, they are usually referring to a Last Will and Testament.

Unlike the Living Will, a Last Will and Testament has nothing to do with an individual's medical decisions.

Instead, the Last Will and Testament will give you control over how your assets are distributed and used once you have passed away.

Simply put, a Living Will is focused on health decisions and a select few posthumous issues, whereas a Last Will and Testament is largely focused on who will inherit or receive your assets.

Additionally, it is worth noting that a Last Will and Testament also handles most of the posthumous decisions that are not addressed by the Living Will.

One of the most significant reasons for creating a Last Will and Testament is so the state does not control your assets upon death.

If you die without a will and have no children, it is said that the individual died "intestate", meaning without a will.

Should someone die intestate, the person's assets will be probated.

Practically speaking, this means the assets will be distributed by the courts according to Arizona laws of intestacy, not according to the deceased's expressed wishes.

Alternatively, if you have a Last Will and Testament, a probate court disposes of the assets based on Arizona law and what your wishes were in the estate planning document.

Concisely, a Last Will and Testament ensures your wishes for your life's assets are honored by the probate court.

If you have any questions about the benefits of creating a Living Will, a Last Will and Testament, a Revocable Living Trust, or any other estate planning document, schedule a consultation with a Phoenix estate planning lawyer who will ensure your wishes are honored.