What’s the Difference between a Living Will and a Will?

living will, will

They are completely different documents with different purposes and effects.

A Will (sometimes called a “Last Will and Testament”) directs who gets your stuff when you die, who will be guardian of any children under 18, and asks the Probate Court to approve someone you name to pay off your debts, file your final tax returns, and distribute your money (if any’s left over). It takes effect only upon your death.

A Living Will tells the hospital or nursing home how much medical intervention you want at the end of your life, if you’re in a coma or very ill. It is NOT a very important document to have – you should really have a Healthcare Power of Attorney (sometimes called a “Healthcare Proxy”) in which you delegate power to make decisions about your medical care to someone else. It takes effect only when you’re alive but don’t have the mental faculties to make or communicate your own decisions.

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