Despite their similar names, a living will and a last will are two vastly different legal documents. A living will, also known as a healthcare directive, dictates an individual’s wishes about the medical treatments they would like or would not like to receive. For instance, an individual could specify that if they become brain dead, they do not wish to be put on life support or receive certain medical procedures. Living wills can be very specific, or they can be as broad as you’d like to make them. You can also assign a person in your life to make medical decisions on your behalf in case of your incapacitation.
Living wills can cover many healthcare procedures, including the following:
A living will is used when an individual is still alive but unable to make decisions on their own. Living wills have no power after the creator of the will dies, hence the term “living will.” Many family members prefer that their loved ones have living wills to avoid making difficult medical decisions without their input. If you are curious about living wills or would like to know more, our attorneys can help. Contact our law office today at 510-901-5375 for a free consultation.
What is a Last Will and Testament?
A last will and testament, known more commonly as a will, is a legal document that dictates how you would like your property and assets to be distributed after you pass away. In a last will and testament, you can name beneficiaries who will receive property and assets from your estate. Anything you own, including bank accounts, real estate property, vehicles, businesses, and personal items, can be named in your will and passed onto a person or an organization.
Wills are broad documents that can also be used for other purposes. You can use a last will and testament to name guardians of minor children, dependents, or pets, if applicable. You can also use your will to nominate an executor of your estate who will carry out your final wishes. The executor will distribute assets to your beneficiaries and pay any outstanding debts and taxes on the estate before closing it.
Dying without a will in place is referred to as “dying intestate.” If you pass away without a will, it is up to the state to decide how your assets are to be distributed. In most cases, the majority of the estate will be passed to a surviving spouse and any children you have. If you do not have a surviving spouse or any descendants, then the estate will go to the next closest relative. It is not recommended to die without a will, as it can lead to your estate being divided against your final wishes. If you have any assets you’d like to pass on, it is never too early to create a last will and testament. Our estate planning lawyers will help you draft a will with your final wishes to ensure your assets are distributed how you’d like them to be.
Do I Need Both a Living Will and a Last Will?
Living wills and last wills are two distinct legal documents that serve different purposes. It is generally recommended to have both of them at all times. A living will provides information for your family members about your medical wishes, while a last will provides instructions for the executor of your estate on how to distribute your assets. Having both documents ensures that your final wishes for both medical decisions and asset distribution will be respected by your family members in the event of incapacitation or death.
Can a Living Will and Last Will be Combined?
It is often recommended to have both a living will and a last will at all times. However, some people wish to combine their wills into one long document that lists their wishes for medical treatments and the distribution of their assets. While living wills and last wills cannot be combined into a single document, many individuals choose to create both wills simultaneously with the help of an estate planning attorney. That way, medical treatment and asset distribution are covered by valid legal documents.
If you are interested in creating a living will and a last will, always go to a professional to draft these documents for you. Using incorrect or invalid legal language can make your wills invalid in court. If your wills are invalid, your final wishes may not be followed. Our team can draft the legal documents you need to protect your assets and your medical decisions.
How Can an Estate Planning Lawyer Help Me?
Creating an estate plan is essential for not only protecting your estate but also for protecting your medical wishes in the event of incapacitation. Both living wills and last wills and testaments are crucial for a well-rounded estate plan. Whether you are nearing retirement age or you’ve just acquired your first significant asset, it is never too early to create these legal documents for protection. Thinking about your own incapacitation or death can be difficult, but preparing now will save your family members a lot of heartbreak and tough decisions down the line.
At The Singh Law Firm, we are dedicated to creating comprehensive estate plans that meet the needs of our clients. We will review your financial goals and your medical decisions to ensure they are written clearly and effectively in your estate planning documents. Whether you’ve just started making your estate plan or you want to add to an existing one, our team can help you. Call our office today for a free consultation at 510-901-5375.