The Differences Between a Living Will and an Estate Plan

The Differences Between a Living Will and an Estate Plan

Planning what happens to you or your estate when you are incapacitated or gone can sometimes be an uncomfortable conversation – but a necessary one nonetheless.  There are significant differences between a living will and an estate plan; however both are extremely important to insure your wishes are carried out exactly as you planned.

A living will becomes critical in the event you become in a health situation where you are unable to voice your wishes.  You cannot communicate with health professionals or your family what steps you are willing to take to stay alive – or if you wish to stop treatment in certain circumstances.   Do you want to be resuscitated if your heart stops?  Do you want to be on a feeding tube for the rest of your life or on a ventilator to help you breath?   It also address whether or not you would like to be an organ donor.

It is important to address these issues while you are thinking clearly and are not in a life- threatening situation.  Once you design the Living Will you can create an advanced medical directive, a legal document naming a specific person or persons allowed to make decisions for you in the event you are incapacitated.  

A living will is one part of an estate plan.  If you want to have control over what happens to your estate when you are gone, it is imperative that you have a ‘plan’.  In addition to the living will, the estate plan needs to include the following directives, to name a few:

  • Create a will
  • Name an executor (someone to carry out the instructions in the will)
  • Name a guardian if you have minor children
  • Name someone to manage the inheritance of the minor children
  • Provide a life insurance policy
  • Detail instructions on how to care for you in case you become disabled
  • Establish a durable power of attorney to legally allow someone to act on your behalf in handling assets and investments
  • Lists beneficiaries on life insurance policies

Your estate plan – including the living will – needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.  It may seem overwhelming, but the more organized you are now means a lot less stress and anxiety for your loved ones in the event of your death.   An attorney, like an estate lawyer Sacramento trusts, can assist you in taking the next steps to develop a plan that details your directives if you cannot make decisions on your own behalf through a living will, and provide a smooth transition of assets to your family when that time comes.


Thanks to our friends and contributors from Yee Law Group for their insight into living will and estate plan.