Many times I am asked about the difference between a Will and a Living
Will. Although they sound similar, they have two very different functions.
When you are putting together an estate plan, it consists of two parts.
There are the documents that speak for you while you are alive, but you
can’t speak for yourself due to illness or incapacity and there
are documents that speak for you when you pass away. A Living Will falls
into the category of documents that speak for you while you are alive
and a Will falls into the category of documents that speak for you once
you have passed away.
A Living Will contains your thoughts and wishes regarding whether you do
or do not want to be kept alive by artificial means if you are at a point,
due to accident or illness, where the doctor says there is no longer a
hope of recovery for you. It is a chance to give your family guidance
as they struggle, in a highly emotional situation, to figure out what
you would have wanted them to decide for you.
A Will contains your wishes for how you want what you own to be distributed
among your family and friends once you pass away. It can also contain
instructions for the care and support of your family members, such as
naming a guardian for your minor children. It is a road map of instructions
that should be prepared in accordance with the laws of the state in which
So, since they serve two completely different but equally important functions,
it is prudent to have both a Living Will and Will.