What Is the Difference Between a Will and a Living Will in Yonkers?

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Having an estate plan is one of the most valuable things you can do for your loved ones. It takes the burden off of them and reduces decision-making when they are trying to deal with final arrangements and grieve. It also means you don’t have to worry about what will happen after you pass and can focus on spending your years with your loved ones making memories. A last will and testament and a living will are both key elements of a comprehensive estate plan, but it’s important to understand the difference.

If you need help creating or managing your estate plan, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Joseph A. Marra, PLLC, can help. Our team is experienced in all matters of estate planning, including wills, living wills, powers of attorneys, and other estate planning tools.

What Is a Will?

A will is more formally known as a last will and testament. It is where you document your wishes for your estate and assets in the event of your death. At a minimum, it usually names who you want to serve as executor of your estate and who the beneficiaries of your estate will be. If you have minor children, it may also include provisions for who should be named as guardian.
To be valid in the state of New York, a will must be completed in writing, be signed, and be witnessed by two other people. It’s also required that you be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. While this is often a subject of debate when a will is contested, sound mind just means that you are aware of what a will is and what you are doing in creating one.

What Is a Living Will?

A living will also outlines your wishes, but in this case, it’s focused on your wishes for medical treatment if you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to make those decisions for yourself. A living will can include things like whether you want to be put on life support, what doctor you want to see, what healthcare facility you want to receive treatment at, or what type of medications you want to take. A living will can also include information on whether you want to be an organ donor.

The purpose of a living will is to serve as a guide for your medical team so that they know what you would have wanted and what your goals are, even if you aren’t able to communicate them. It also makes your wishes clear for loved ones so they don’t have to worry about making decisions during times of intense stress and emotions.

Do I Really Need Both?

It’s important to have both a living will and a last will and testament because these documents serve very different purposes. Having both in place ensures that your estate plan covers what happens after your death and what happens if you are still living but unable to communicate or make sound decisions. Many people may need other estate planning tools as well, such as a healthcare power of attorney or a financial power of attorney to ensure they are prepared for every potential scenario.

What If I Have a Healthcare Power of Attorney?

A healthcare power of attorney is often confused with a living will, but these are separate documents. A living will explains your wishes if you can’t provide guidance for your care team, but a healthcare power of attorney actually gives decision-making power to one or more people. Those named as healthcare power of attorneys can make decisions related to your medical care if you aren’t able to and are also able to access all of your medical records and information related to treatment. A healthcare power of attorney can be helpful, but it’s important to discuss your needs and goals with an attorney to determine whether a living will may be sufficient or if you would benefit from both.
Get help creating a will or a living will when you call the Law Offices of Joseph A. Marra, PLLC, at 914-344-5145.

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