What’s the Difference Between Last Will and Living Will?

A Last Will & Testament is a written statement that explains how you want your belongings to be distributed to loved ones or charitable organizations after your death. A last will must be written with a sound mind, and is considered invalid if that is not the case, and in most states, you must be 18 years of age or older for the document to be considered legal. If you don't have a will when you die, then your property will be handled by a probate court, and may be distributed differently than you would prefer.

A Living Will is an outline of important health care decisions, such as organ donation and whether or not to remain on artificial life support. A living will is drawn up in advance of facing such decisions. Living wills and advance directives describe your preferences for end-of-life care. These documents speak for you when you're not able to speak for yourself.

By planning ahead, you can get the medical care you want, avoid unnecessary suffering and relieve caregivers of decision-making burdens during moments of crisis or grief. You also help reduce confusion or disagreement about the choices you would want people to make on your behalf.

See also: How do I write a Last Will & Testament?

You can download state-specific forms for advance directives via the National Hospice and Palliative Care Association’s Caring Pages.

Note: This page is for general information purposes. We recommend you seek the advice of an attorney for legal matters.