I'm often asked about the difference between a Living Will vs a Living Trust. After all, they sound awfully similar! Despite the similarity in name, however, they are entirely different.
As explained in the balance's article, Living Will vs. Living Trust, Which estate-planning option is right for you?, a Living Will only covers one phase of life (health care decision-making if you are incapacitated), whereas a Living Trust covers three phases of life (holding your assets while you are alive and well, allowing someone else to handle them for you if your are incapacitated, and then distributing them as you intend when you pass away).
The Living Will
A Living Will has one purpose: setting forth your end-of-life wishes if you are unable to communicate them yourself. For example, if you are in an irreversible coma or persistent vegetative state, your Living Will can specify whether you would want to be allowed to die naturally vs extraordinary measures being taken to extend your life artificially.
For many of my clients, they want to die naturally and with dignity. The Living Will allows for you to put those wishes in writing.
In California, a Living Will is typically included as part of a larger document referred to as an Advance Healthcare Directive. This document includes both the Living Will, as well as designates your Agent to communicate on your behalf as it pertains to your health care treatment options, provide needed consents, etc.
The Living Trust
In contrast to a Living Will, the Living Trust does not address your wishes regarding your health care. Instead, the Living Trust addresses your assets and property throughout your lifetime and specifically at three distinct periods:
Your Living Trust allows you to manage and control your Trust property while you are alive and well, just as you do now.
Your Living Trust designates a successor Trustee who can act on your behalf with respect to your Trust property if you become mentally or physically incapacitated (avoiding the need for a conservator to be appointed and managed by the local probate court).
Your Living Trust allows you to give your Trust property to who you want, when you want, and how you want at the time of your death (privately and without court intervention and the exorbitant costs associated with probate).
As you can see, there are significant differences between the Living Will vs Living Trust documents. Both are essential for a complete and comprehensive estate plan that solves all of the problems associated with incapacity and death.
In order to protect you and your loved ones, it is important to work with a qualified estate planning attorney to prepare the Living Will and Living Trust documents, as well as the other documents needed for a complete estate plan (such as a Power of Attorney for property and health care related matters, as well as a Last Will and Testament).
I invite you to book a consultation on our website to discuss your situation and take the first step towards completing your own estate plan.