The Difference Between a Living Will and Last Will and Testament

While their names may be similar, there is actually a significant difference between a standard Last Will and Testament and a living will. The former, for instance, is a legal instrument that dictates how a person’s assets will be utilized and distributed upon his or her death. A living will, on the other hand, contains a person’s wishes regarding the use of medical care in the event of a persistent vegetative state or an irreversible coma.

Once a person passes away, a living will can even grant consent for an autopsy or direct the disposition of his or her remains. Both of these legal instruments are an important part of any estate plan, so if you have questions about creating a will or living will, you should speak with an experienced Chicago estate planning lawyer about including them in your own estate plan.

What is a Last Will and Testament?

When a person passes away without an estate plan in place, his or her assets are distributed based on the state’s laws of intestacy, which favor immediate blood relatives. Fortunately, it is possible to override these rules and determine how we want our assets to be divided after death. One of the best ways to do this is through the creation of a Last Will and Testament, or standard will, which provides instructions for what should happen to a person’s property after his or her death.

In a will, a person can choose to leave assets to certain individuals who aren’t relatives, including friends and even charities. Because they involve dispersing a person’s assets and property, wills don’t go into effect until after a person actually passes away. This means that a testator can amend, revoke, or write a new will entirely whenever he or she wants, as long as the individual is deemed competent.

What is a Living Will?

Like standard wills, living wills, which are also often referred to as advance directives, are legal instruments that provide instructions about certain issues. Unlike regular wills, however, living wills don’t discuss property, but instead include directions regarding the medical care that a testator wishes to receive if he or she becomes incapacitated. Some living wills, for instance, include directions to medical providers to avoid using life-sustaining medical treatments, while others give permission for the use of feeding or breathing tubes.

Because they address end-of-life decisions, living wills go into effect before a person actually passes away. It’s important to note, however, that a living will isn’t the same as a Do Not Resuscitate Order, but only comes into play when there is no chance of recovery. Besides stating a preference for these kinds of end-of-life decisions, testators can also include directions about organ donation or cremation.

Experienced Chicago Estate Planning Lawyers

An effective estate plan is often made up of many different parts, including both a will and a living will. To learn more about these kinds of documents and how they could work in your own estate plan, please reach out to the dedicated Chicago estate planning lawyers at Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd. Attorneys at Law today. Call us at 847-325-5559 to schedule an appointment.

Updated as of July 2019
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