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What Is the Difference between a Living Will and a Last Will?

The two wills – a living will and a last will – are quite different. They both serve entirely separate purposes.

The last will is meant to be enacted after a person has died. It deals with their holdings, dispersion of funds, last requests and other aspects of their property following death. Since they no longer have a say in the matter, the will speaks for them. So long as the requests made by the will are in accordance with the law, they will be legally binding. The advice of an attorney specializing in wills, trusts and estates can be an incredibly valuable resource here.

differences in the types of wills you can useAn example of a request that might not match up with what the law allows would be when a parent wills custody of a child to someone who is not a relative. In that case, the court will have to decide if the child is going to be cared for best with that friend or with someone else.

The last will is traditionally used to divide up property and assets. So, the financial holdings, property, belongings and other parts of a person’s property can be divided as the will states. Once again, the law will have restrictions that may apply, but generally, the will can be followed to the letter and its commands tend to carry the weight of law.

Usually, a lawyer will hold onto the will until the person’s passing and then read the will to the people to whom it pertains. The lawyer may also be responsible for ensuring that all the property is divided up in accordance with the will.

A living will pertains solely to aspects of life support and anatomical gifts. In other words, it applies only to the body, whereas the last will typically only applies to property.

The living will can help decide important matters such as whether the person wants to be kept alive when only machines are keeping them that way. If they are brain dead, comatose or otherwise unresponsive, the living will can provide clarity as to what the person wants done with their body.

The living will can also apply to the posthumous remains of the person, such as donating their anatomical remains to research labs. The living will can list instructions for what to do with the body after the person has passed. That can include instructions on cremation and burial.

If you are still not sure which kind of will you require or how they differ, you should talk to a lawyer for clarification.