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Difference Between a Living Will and a Last Will

Difference Between a Living Will and a Last Will
Estate planning legal matters are already confusing enough, so it certainly does not help to have similar names for related but completely different documents.

The difference between a Living Will and a Last Will is significant. Despite its title, “Do you understand the difference between a Living Will and a Last Will in Idaho?” this recent Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press article applies to all states. Beck, Lenox & Stolzer Estate Planning and Elder Law is licensed to create and amend both documents in the states of Missouri and Illinois.

A last will is the document most people think of when considering estate planning. Often called simply a “will,” this is the estate planning document used to give instructions about what should happen to your assets and possessions when you die and who you want to carry out your wishes in the document.

The will is only effective after you have died.

The person managing your estate after you pass is known as a “Personal Representative” or executor or executrix. Some states only use the phrase personal representative. However, the tasks are the same. Your executor (or your estate planning attorney) files your last will with the county probate court for review, ensuring that the will complies with your state’s laws and getting approval to serve as the executor. This is called “probating the will.”

There are ways to avoid having your entire estate go through probate. An experienced estate planning attorney may recommend trusts and other strategies.

The last will is also used to name a guardian for minor children, which is why every young family needs a last will, even if they don’t have a large estate. Doing so guides the court system and the family about your wishes for your children.

What is the difference between a living will and a last will? It’s a completely different document, serving an entirely different purpose.

A living will is used while you are still alive and serves a very narrow set of circumstances. A living will is used to state what medical treatments you do or don’t want to be administered if you are terminally ill and death is imminent or if you are in what is called a “persistent vegetative state.” This means your body is alive, but your brain is no longer functioning.

In the living will, you can state whether or not you will receive CPR, artificial or natural hydration and nutrition, mechanical respiration and any other means used to keep your body alive. The Living Will is often used with another document, known as a Physician’s Order for Scope of Treatment, or POST, regarding options for medical treatments.

An estate planning attorney can prepare a living will, a last will and other documents, including a Power of Attorney and a Health Care Power of Attorney, all of which are needed to protect you while you are living. Some attorneys, including the ones at Beck, Lenox & Stolzer, can incorporate living will language in the last will.

Don’t have a last will or a living will? Have questions? You can schedule a free phone consultation with one of the attorneys at Beck  & Lenox to discuss your needs and questions. Click here to get started.

Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press (Nov. 19, 2023) “Do you understand the difference between a Living Will and a Last Will in Idaho?”

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