If I have a living will, would I also need another will or a living trust?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Yes, definitely. A living will is a document wherein you specify how you want your heath care to be handled if you become incapable of telling the doctor yourself what you want done. For example, do you want to be left on life support for a long time, maybe years, in the hope that your condition will improve? Do you want to have invasive treatment like surgery or radiation treatment when you have little chance of survival? You have a right to make these decisions and leave instructions about what should be done. The name living will can be confusing as this isn’t really a will in the traditional sense. It takes effect, if at all, while you are still alive, and it has absolutely nothing to do with managing or controlling your property either during your lifetime or at your death. It deals only with health care options.

Wills and living trusts are two options you can use to set up an estate plan to distribute your property after your death. If your estate is at all complicated, you would be wise to get advice from an estate planning attorney concerning your best options.

A will is a document that appoints a personal representative (Executor or Executrix) to handle your estate and says how you want your property to be distributed. When you die, your will has to go through a legal process called probate. This can be a time consuming and expensive process.

A living trust is a legal entity you set up during your life. You transfer all or most of your property to it while you’re still alive. You name yourself as trustee during your life, so you retain control of the property, and a successor trustee if you should become incapacitated or for when you die. Your successor trustee will distribute the trust property as you direct in the trust document after your death. This property doesn’t have to go through probate. Some property, like certain stocks, are difficult to hold in a living trust, so this might not be the best option for all your property.

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