Another birthday passes by, and you feel content. You and your spouse have raised three wonderful children. You’re satisfied with your job and make time for all your hobbies. Even though you’re another year older, you’re in great shape and intend to stay active. Still, you can’t help but think of your future. You realize that death is inevitable, but it’s an uncomfortable topic to think about. You also know that illness or injuries are unpredictable. So even though you’re in good health, you want to protect your and your family’s future if something happens to you. Your friend suggests creating a living will, and you respond by saying you already have a will. That’s when you learn that a will and a living will are two very different legal documents. But what is a living will, and how does it differ from a will? Estate planning can be confusing and overwhelming, but learning about all your options is essential as you start planning for the future. Keep reading this guide to understand the difference between a will and a living will.

For more information on estate planning, contact Stafford Law Firm today.

The Differences Between a Will and a Living Will

While the names are similar, a will and a living will are very different legal documents. When you create your estate plan, it’s essential to set up both to ensure that your financial and healthcare wishes are respected.

Here are the differences between a will and a living will.


A will is a legal document that explains how you want your assets handled and distributed once you pass away. You can name beneficiaries and how you will distribute your funds and property in your will. Another important aspect of a will is appointing an executor. An executor is a person who distributes your assets and fulfills other duties during the probate process. Additionally, you can name a guardian for your minor children in your will.

Living Will

A living will, also called an advanced healthcare directive, is similar to a will, except it applies to when you are still alive but cannot make decisions for yourself. A typical example is if you got into a car accident and became incapacitated. Since you’re incapacitated, you can’t make medical decisions for yourself, which can lead to complications. You can include various medical decisions in your living will, such as breathing assistance, supplement feeding, and palliative care. So, the main difference between a will and a living will is that wills deal with your assets and wishes once you die. Meanwhile, a living will is how you want to be taken care of in case you are incapacitated.

What If You Don’t Have a Living Will?

If you don’t have a living will and become incapacitated, you will still receive healthcare. However, you won’t be able to make decisions for yourself, which means you may receive care that you might not have wanted otherwise. Instead, your doctor will ask your closest family members to make these important decisions for you. This can put a heavy burden on your family members and cause a dispute if one person doesn’t agree with the decision another family member makes.

How an Estate Planning Attorney Can Help

Many people put off estate planning because it’s complicated, and talking about death can be uncomfortable. While estate planning can be overwhelming, it’s essential to protect your assets and your family. At Stafford Law Firm, we make estate planning simple and intuitive. We’re here to help you make important decisions about your estate. Our attorneys will offer advice, answer your questions, and help you create a plan that best suits your needs. If you need help creating a will or a living will, consider calling an estate planning attorney from Stafford Law Firm. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

FAQ: Wills Vs. Living Wills

Do I need a will and a living will?
Since wills and living wills sound similar, some people think you don’t need both. While it’s not legally required to have either document, it’s in your best interest to create a will and a living will. If you want your financial and healthcare wishes to be honored, then creating both legal documents is essential.

Can I create a living will on my own?
Yes, you can create a living will on your own. However, working with an experienced attorney is advisable to help you create the document. They can answer your questions and ensure you don’t miss any critical information. Most importantly, an attorney will help you develop a living will that best fits your needs.

Should my doctor help prepare my living will?
Your doctor doesn’t have a say in how you create your living will. It’s up to you to decide how you want to be cared for in case you’re incapacitated. You can consult your doctor to learn about different treatment options, so you’re well-informed while creating your living will. Once you’ve created your living will, give a copy of it to your doctor, so they have it on file.