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Basic Estate Planning Questions – What is the Difference Between a Will and a Living Will?

The process of creating a comprehensive estate plan in the Greensboro, North Carolina area will most likely require you to create both a will and a living will. But why is this? Why do you need both of these documents? What does one document do that the other cannot?

If you have been reading our blog for some time, you might already have an idea about why using both a will and a living will is important. For those who do not recognize the importance of having both of these documents, let’s take a look at some important ideas.

Last Wills and Testaments

A last will and testament, more often referred to simply as a will, is one of the more important estate planning tools you can, and should, create. Regardless of whatever else you choose to include in your plan, a last will and testament affords you some specific protections. First, you can make inheritance decisions through your will. Second, your will allows you to name an executor who will manage your estate after you die. Third, you can choose a guardian who will care for any minor children of yours should you die before those children become adults.

There are also additional choices you can make through a last will and testament, all of which your attorney will explain you in more detail. One of the most important things to understand about a will, however, is that regardless of the choices you make with it, those choices only take effect after you die and a court accepts your will as a legally valid expression of your wishes.

Living Wills

Living wills, unlike last wills and testaments, have nothing to do with property, guardians, or your estate. A living will is a document that allows you to express medical decisions. Should you become incapacitated, the living will tells your health care providers the kinds of care and treatment you wish to accept or refuse.

Living wills, unlike last wills and testaments, only apply when you are alive, but otherwise incapacitated.

A Will and a Living Will

So, because a will and a living will serve different purposes and take effect at different times, no estate plan can be complete without both of them. For example, while you might want to use a living will to protect your medical wishes, the document is completely useless when it comes to protecting your inheritance choices.

Similarly, should you create a last will and testament and use it to state your medical preferences, you are asking for problems. Wills do not become effective until after you die, so the medical choices you express in them will be moot.

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