When planning for your future, a will and a living will can both be useful to have in place. But what exactly are both of these documents? And how do they differ? This post explains.
What is a will?
A will is a document that outlines exactly how your money and possessions will be distributed following your death. If you do not arrange a will, you will not have control over how your assets are passed down. This could result in the wrong people getting hold of your estate.
You can write a will yourself, but it is best to hire an estate lawyer to help you. This can ensure that your will is legally binding and that it contains all the important details of how to handle your estate from finding new owners for pets to deciding what to do with a business (if you’re a business owner).
You can write a will at any time in your life. Wills can be amended later on or even completely rewritten, so you shouldn’t ever feel that your decisions are final.
What is a living will?
A living will is completely different to a will. It comes into action while you are still alive and controls healthcare decisions rather than deciding where your assets go.
The purpose of a living will is to give you control over what healthcare you receive when you are no longer capable of making such decisions for yourself due to mental or physical health problems. It allows you to choose certain forms of treatment you would like, and potentially refuse other types of treatment that you may not want to receive in certain situations.
A living will is different from a power of attorney. A power of attorney gives someone else control over healthcare decisions, whereas a living will is designed to give you advance control over these decisions. It is still useful to have both a power or attorney and a living will – a power of attorney can also be granted control over financial decisions, while a living will can put in restrictions as to medical choices that an attorney can make on your behalf.
Why it’s worth having both
Both a will and a living will can give you control over aspects of your future that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to control. Unless you are happy to have your assets distributed under the rules of intestacy, a will could be important for fulfilling your wishes. It can also help to prevent squabbles over assets that could turn nasty. A living will can meanwhile ensure that your loved ones do not make unwanted healthcare decisions on your behalf if you ever get too ill to make decisions yourself. It can also take away some of the responsibility from loved ones. All in all, both a will and living will can help to reduce stress for those you leave behind by making clear your wishes.