What is the Difference Between a will and a Living will?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
A will specifies how someone's assets should be divided upon his death.
A will specifies how someone's assets should be divided upon his death.

Sometimes people confuse a will with a living will; this may be due to the similarities of the names as well as the fact that the two documents have a similar purpose. Both of these documents spell out what the person who creates them wishes and are used to ensure his wishes are honored when he can no longer speak for himself. A will and a living will are more different than they are alike, however. A will is used to specify how a person’s assets should be divided after his death as well as whom will have the responsibility of taking care of his dependents. A living will, on the other hand, is used to specify the treatments a person wants doctors to provide to prolong his life in the event he can no longer speak for himself.

An living will tells the doctor how much medical intervention to give the patient during his or her terminal illness.
An living will tells the doctor how much medical intervention to give the patient during his or her terminal illness.

The main difference between a will and a living will is the time period it is intended to govern. A will is intended to provide instructions for the division of a person’s assets and the care of his dependents once the will creator has died. It is not subject to anyone else’s decision-making process. A living will, on the other hand, is made to govern a time period in which a person is incapacitated because of a health condition or injury. It allows him to specify what treatments, if any, he wants doctors to use to prolong his life and only becomes effective once a person’s doctor determines that he has no chance of recovering and is terminal.

One easy way to remember the difference between a will and a living will is to keep in mind the types of things these documents decide. For example, a will may indicate who will receive a person’s prized collection of artwork after his death. It may also indicate who will become guardian of a person’s children. Sometimes it may even list a person to care for the deceased person’s pet and provide information regarding its monetary support. A living will, however, does not cover property or dependents at all; it focuses entirely on whether or not its creator wants doctors to use methods and medical equipment to keep him alive once it has been determined that he will not recover.

Despite the fact that a will and a living will are different, they do have some similarities. They are both legal documents that spell out a person’s wishes. To ensure that a will and living will are adhered to when the time comes, a person may consult a lawyer to get advice on drafting it in keeping with his jurisdiction’s laws.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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    • A will specifies how someone's assets should be divided upon his death.
      A will specifies how someone's assets should be divided upon his death.
    • An living will tells the doctor how much medical intervention to give the patient during his or her terminal illness.
      An living will tells the doctor how much medical intervention to give the patient during his or her terminal illness.