How to Plan Your Estate with a Living Will

Living Will vs. Last Will:

When most people think of a will, they imagine a document that dictates who receives what upon the death of a loved one. When they picture this, they are thinking about the last will. The last will needs to run through a probate process before any assets can be distributed. A living trust, however, will not need to go through probate. Both the last will and a living trust will become active only after your death. A living will is quite different. A living will is also known as an advance health care directive. These wills provide directions for end-of-life medical care only. After death, they have no power. An estate planning attorney can help you select the right will for you and aid drafting the document(s) for you.

  • Things to Consider:

When creating a last will, you need to focus on finances, bonds and any assets you have. In the last will, as the probate can drag on for months, beneficiaries typically see less in the end. An estimated 5% of your property will fund court fees and lawyers as your will is processed through probate. For a living trust, however, your property is transferred to the trust. Upon your death, the successor trustee then transfers the ownership to the named beneficiaries.

Living wills can dictate the type of care you want even when you are no longer to physically communicate. In general, however, it is important to consider several scenarios. Resuscitation, medications, life support and the donation of organs are often included in a living will.


In the care of the last will or living trust, making arrangements before your death can decrease the burden afterward. While some wills are contested, most wills and living trusts help expedite the process. You can directly dictate who gets what. Furthermore, for the loved ones dealing with your loss, the additional burden of going through your belongings and finances may be too hard to deal with. Creating a last will or living trust will allow them to grieve without having to deal with sorting through and fighting over who gets what.

Making final decisions regarding medical care for a loved one is a tremendous responsibility. Family members may not know or agree with your end-of-life care. For example, you may not want to be kept alive by life support machines. A family member, who may disagree with this or be unwilling to make the decision that will ultimately lead to your death, might decide it is best to keep you on them. If you are unable to communicate your wishes, you will not be able to dictate otherwise. Creating a living will not only ensures your desires govern your care but also alleviates the burden on your family members.


Taking the time to plan your living will and final arrangements and distribution of property can be an emotional experience. However, with the help of an estate-planning attorney, you can make your final days easier and your loved ones grieving process less difficult.