Last Will and Testament, Living Will, Living Trust, Testamentary Trust, Power of Attorney, HIPAA Release, Quit Claim Deed, Enhanced Life Estate Deed…these are all terms we hear thrown around when thinking about establishing an estate plan. We know that as responsible adults we should plan for our future by creating a Last Will and Testament, but creating a comprehensive estate plan which accounts for the distribution of your assets, the security of your friends and family and what health care decisions should be made on your behalf involves much more than just a will.
The truth is, establishing an estate plan is rarely urgent (until it becomes urgent) and they are only needed when something awful happens. The result is that we often avoid tackling the whole mess.
However, developing a comprehensive plan for your estate can be quite simple and straightforward if you understand the basics and if you have the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney on your side. When you are planning for what happens to your estate, it’s important to understand the difference between the different legal documents that are available to you, so you can ensure everything goes according to your plan. One of these such documents is known as a Living Will. While most people know what a Last Will and Testament is, or at least have an idea of what a Will does, many people do not know about Living Wills and how a Living Will can ensure that your wishes regarding your health care and end of life care are followed.
What is the difference between a Last Will and Testament and a Living Will, and why do you need a Living Will along with a Will?
A Living Will is a binding document to specify your medical wishes if you can’t communicate because of illness or injury. With a Living Will, a person expresses what he or she would like done regarding end-of-life care. In a situation where the attending physician and another consulting physician have determined that there is no probability of recovery from a medical condition, the Living Will can direct that life prolonging treatment be withheld. The person can indicate which of the three situations where they wish for life-prolonging treatment to be withheld: persistent vegetative state, terminal condition or end-stage condition. It addresses such questions as to whether you want life extending treatment while terminally ill or in a permanent coma.
A Last Will is the fundamental piece of any estate plan. A Will functions to provide your instructions for distributing the assets you own individually or share ownership as tenants in common when you pass away. It is only in a Will that you can name legal guardians for your children, as well as someone to manage any properties left to or earned by minors. A Will also gives you the right to name an executor who will be in charge of wrapping up your estate after your death.
A Last Will does not give directives about your health care or life support. That is where a Living Will comes into play. A Living Will, also known as an advance directive or a health care directive, spells out your decisions about life support and organ donation in advance. It also names someone to manage your healthcare, commonly referred to as your Health Care Surrogate or Proxy. To avoid any conflict of interest, your Health Care Surrogate can be a different person than the person named as Agent in your Power of Attorney, who is designated to handle your financial and legal affairs.
Why have a Living Will? There are two major reasons why someone may want or need to create a Living Will.
- A Living Will spares your family the anguish of making life-support decisions without your input. It also helps to avoid major arguments between family members at a vulnerable time. With a valid Living Will, your wishes are clearly expressed so that your loved ones do not have make an incredibly difficult decision in a time of tragedy.
- A Living Will also gives you control of your healthcare by ensuring that your doctor understands your end-of-life wishes and treats you accordingly. If you have specific wishes regarding your health care, certain religious beliefs, or are concerned that your family or spouse may not honor your wishes, a Living Will gives you the peace of mind that your wishes for your care will be followed.
To proceed with a Living Will, we recommend that you meet with an estate planning attorney who can walk you through the important legal questions at hand. Your attorney can prepare the proper documentation for your state and help you think through potential scenarios that you might want to discuss with your physician and loved ones. There are numerous medical scenarios and procedures you or your loved ones could face. By having a Living Will drafted by an experienced attorney, you can be clear about the specific medical treatments you do or do not wish to receive.
Many people think a living will is not something they need unless they reach senior citizen age. However, this could not be further from the truth. Life is unpredictable and often uncontrollable, giving every enough reason for adults of any age to invest in a Living Will in order to protect themselves when bad fortune arises.
The attorneys at The Orlando Law Group represent and prepare estate planning documents for individuals throughout Orlando, Waterford Lakes, Altamonte Springs, Winter Garden, Lake Nona, St. Cloud, Kissimmee, and throughout central Florida.
If you are dealing with an estate planning issue or are looking to establish your own estate plan, please reach out to our office at 407-512-4394, fill out our online contact form.
If you have questions about anything discussed in this article or other legal matters, give our office a call at 407-512-4394 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 12301 Lake Underhill Rd, Suite 213, Orlando, FL 32828, as well as offices in Seminole, Osceola and West Orange counties to assist you.
Last Updated on February 18, 2023 by The Orlando Law Group