Will vs. Living Will: What's the Difference?

HomeBlogEstate PlanningWill vs. Living Will: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to planning for the future, many individuals think about writing a will. A last will and testament outlines your wishes for the distribution of your assets after you die. However, there is another legal document that you may want to consider – a living will. This document states your desires for medical treatment in case you can no longer make decisions for yourself. Let’s look at the difference between a living will and a will in North Carolina.

What is a Will?

A will, also known as a last will and testament, is a legal document that outlines your wishes for the distribution of your assets after you die. Your will can include real estate, personal belongings, savings accounts, and digital assets. You can also use your will to appoint a guardian for your minor children.

Your will is a crucial part of estate planning. Without a will, your assets go to heirs according to NC Intestacy law. Intestacy law acts in ways you may not expect. 

Sometimes the courts can give your parents and spouse a similar share of your assets! Intestacy law can also appoint a guardian for your children without considering your wishes.

What is a Living Will?

On the other hand, a living will does not deal with the distribution of assets. Instead, it’s a plan you make for your own healthcare decisions. You can lose your decision-making capacity due to an accident or illness. So, a living will lays out your wishes for medical treatments in case you can no longer make decisions for yourself. 

In your living will, you can outline your wishes for things like life-sustaining medical treatments such as:

  • Dialysis
  • Artificial respiration
  • Nutritional supplementation
  • Blood transfusions
  • Approved types of surgeries
  • Other artificial means of prolonging life

In a living will, you can also state whether you’d like to be an organ donor. Organ donation can save up to 8 lives, so it’s essential to consider whether you’d like to share in that kind of generosity when you pass away.

Your living will may also outline funeral arrangements so that your family understands your last wishes regarding the disposition of your body, whether burial or cremation.

It’s essential to note that a living will only goes into effect if you cannot communicate your wishes yourself. When you have the capability to make decisions for yourself, then your living will is not used.

Complete Estate Plan Includes a Will & a Living Will

You may want to consider writing both a will and a living will as part of your estate planning. Creating both legal documents can ensure that your loved ones carry out your wishes, no matter where the future leads. Whether you face an extended illness where others need to make healthcare decisions for you or suddenly die, your loved ones know your desires.

An experienced estate planning attorney can help you understand the difference between a will and a living will and what is best for your situation.

What are the Advantages of Having a Will?

Your last will and testament gives you the power to decide. There are many advantages to having a will, including:

  • You decide who will receive your assets.
  • You decide who will be the guardian of your minor children.
  • You can appoint an executor to carry out your wishes instead of having a court appoint a personal representative to handle your estate.
  • If you have a business, you can appoint a successor.
  • You can make specific bequests in your will.
  • You can exclude people from your will.

Writing a last will and testament is an excellent way to take control of your estate and plan for the future.

What are the Advantages of Having a Living Will?

You may wonder why it’s essential to plan for your future healthcare. The advantages of having a living will include:

  • You can prepare for your own medical care in advance.
  • Your family knows your wishes for medical treatment.
  • You can appoint a healthcare proxy to make decisions for you if you are unable to communicate your wishes.
  • It can ease the burden on your loved ones during a difficult time.
  • It can prevent fights among family members about what you would want.
  • You don’t need to worry about courts making decisions for you if your loved ones disagree on your future medical treatments.

Your living will can give peace of mind to yourself and your family. It allows you to take control of your medical care and make decisions in advance about the kind of treatment you want to receive.

Writing a Last Will & Testament or Living Will

If you’re thinking about writing a will or living will, consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney is essential. Many online services to create these documents leave out crucial statements that determine what happens if your family members disagree about your care or future wishes.

Consulting a knowledgeable attorney can help you understand the difference between these legal documents and ensure that you correctly state your wishes so that they stand up to scrutiny, even in a court of law.

We Can Help

At Vail Gardner Law, our years of experience can help you plan for your future. We can answer any questions you may have about estate planning in general and assist you in drafting estate planning documents. You may entrust us with the responsibility of writing a living will and a will that accurately expresses your desires, so there is no uncertainty. Your loved ones will appreciate your preparation. And, you can relax, knowing you’ve done everything you can to prepare. Contact us today and find out how we can help you get started.