A recent survey on estate planning found that 74% of those surveyed thought estate planning was a confusing topic. That’s no surprise considering estate planning has a language all its own. Today, we’ll sort out the difference between a Will, a Living Will and a Living Trust — three separate estate planning tools with similar names, but different roles to play in your planning.
Last Will & Testament
This is what people commonly refer to as a “Will.” It is the most popular estate planning tool. This legal document is used to determine where assets go and who is in charge (the executor) after you die. Until you die, your Will and your executor do not have any legal authority. Wills often must go through the time and expense of probate court.
A Living Will states your end of life wishes, such as when to “pull the plug.” This document reduces stress and confusion for your loved ones. It gives guidance to the person serving as your healthcare power of attorney. This is the person who ultimately decides when to stop treatment and let you go, if it becomes necessary.
A Living Trust does a lot of what a Will does, but it does it more efficiently. It is kept private and avoids probate court. A Living Trust also states your wishes after death, but also includes instructions if you become disabled. The Trustee is in charge of the trust. Usually, you are the Trustee while you’re healthy, but then a successor takes over if you become disabled (by a stroke, Alzheimer’s, etc.) or when you pass away. (Read more about choosing good helpers for your plan here.)
Helping educate people and demystify estate planning is one of our highest priorities because effective plans can only be created when clients and attorneys work together. You bring your knowledge of your family and its unique circumstances. We bring our knowledge of estate planning and the law. Together we create effective plans that bring peace of mind and protection for those people and things you care about. (Read more about that here.)
To continue learning more about the unique language of estate planning, click here to read “What’s the Difference Between a DNR and a POA?” To learn more about Wills and Trusts, check out the dates for our upcoming workshop, “Getting Started With Wills & Trusts”.