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You may have a unique situation or have specific questions about what is right for you and your family. In these cases, it may be best to talk to an attorney.
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There are special considerations to make if you have a blended family or a child with special needs. In these cases, it may be best to talk to an attorney.
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Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
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  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
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Do you have a large estate or an interest in more advanced estate planning tools like trusts?

If your estate equals or exceeds a value of $1 million, or needs special estate planning tools like trusts, it may be best to talk with an attorney.
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a FindLaw Attorney

Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
What’s included:
  • Being part of a blended family
  • Caring for children with special needs
  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
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Are you looking to have your estate planning basics covered?

Our Estate Planning Package includes a Last Will & Testament, Health Care Directive & Living Will, and Financial Power of Attorney to cover all of your basic estate planning needs.
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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Do you have minor children?

If you have minor children, you will want to name a guardian for them.
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If you have a pet or pets, you will want to name someone to care for them.
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Do you want to leave gifts to people or a charity?

If you want to give items or money to people or charities, you will want to make what are known as “specific gifts.”
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Do you own a business?

If you own a business or a share of a business, you will want to plan for succession of ownership.
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Do you want to decide how your property is distributed when you pass away?

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Do you want someone to handle your health care decisions if you are unable?

In case you are incapacitated, you will want to list your health care preferences and name someone to handle your health care decisions.
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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Do you want someone to handle your health care decisions if you are unable?

In case you are incapacitated, you will want to list your health care preferences and name someone to handle your health care decisions.
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Do you want to specify someone who can make financial decisions for you if you are unavailable or incapacitated?

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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Understood! Last question…

Do you want to specify someone who can make financial decisions for you if you are unavailable or incapacitated?

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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Thank you for taking our quiz!
Your answers suggest you might benefit from:

Speaking with
a FindLaw Attorney

Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
What’s included:
  • Being part of a blended family
  • Caring for children with special needs
  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Estate Planning Package

For One Person

$135
What’s included:
  • Last will and testament
  • Health care directive & living will
  • Financial power of attorney
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • A comprehensive plan — for less
  • Free changes and revisions for one full year after purchase
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All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$39
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will

For One Person

$39
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament

For One Person

$79
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
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All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Estate Planning Package

For Two People

$255
What’s included:
  • Two wills, health care directives & living wills, and financial powers of attorney
  • Two free HIPAA release forms
  • You and your loved one create your own estate plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Attorney-approved documents customized to your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions for one full year after purchase
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All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will

For Two People

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament

For Two People

$149
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will + Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$118
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Health Care Directive & Living Will

For One Person

$118
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will + Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$156
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$227
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Health Care Directive & Living Will

For Two People

$227
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase

Living Will vs Last Will and Testament

A “living will” and a “last will and testament” sound similar — and both are used to express the desires of the person who created them — but they are different legal documents with distinct aims

Table of Contents

In this article, we explain how each can play an important role in your estate plan.

How Do I Remember Which Is Which?

It is easy to remember the difference by thinking of the words “living” and “last.” A living will takes effect when you are still living and gives health care providers instructions for treating you while you are alive.

A last will and testament describes your last wishes for your property and your minor children. It is not effective until you die, and you can revoke or change it as long as you are living. The final last will and testament you write will be one of your last legal documents to become effective.

What Is a Living Will?

living will is a legal document that tells medical professionals what medical care you want during an end-of-life situation. It also can include directions for organ donations. It is your chance to express what types of lifesaving measures you do or do not want.

Health care professionals will only consult the living will if you are unable to make or communicate your own decision. You also may revoke or revise your living will at any time.

A living will also is known as an “advance directive.” Almost every state has laws that define what a living will is and how to create a legally binding living will. A few states do not have specific laws regarding living wills, but health care providers and courts in these states may still choose to honor living wills.

A related document to consider using is a durable power of attorney for health care. With this document, you can appoint a friend or relative as your attorney-in-fact to make health care decisions for you if you become unable to make them for yourself. Despite the name “attorney-in-fact,” this person does not need to be a lawyer.

Both the living will and durable power of attorney for health care have different names in different states. In some states, they must be separate documents, while other states only have one document that includes both the living will and durable power of attorney for health care.

Ready to create a living will? Get a living will form tailored to you.

What Is a Last Will and Testament?

last will and testament is a legal document containing your instructions for how to distribute your property after your death. You will also name a person to manage the distribution. This person is often called the executor.

Through a judicial process called probate, a court will review the will to ensure it is valid; hear any challenges to the will, and make certain the executor administers the estate in accordance with the will. Unless your instructions violate the law or cannot be fulfilled, a probate court will honor the terms of your last will and testament.

If you have minor children, you also can use it to name who you wish to be their legal guardian. Usually, courts will honor your choice. However, courts will not appoint your designated guardian if it is not in the best interest of your children. For example, if your preferred guardian ends up incapacitated or incarcerated, a judge will choose someone else, likely one of your family members or close friends.

Dying without a valid will is called “intestacy.” If you did not create a last will and testament, your state’s intestacy laws will determine how your property is distributed. These detailed laws give preference to children of the deceased, followed by close relatives.

Ready to create your will? Get a last will and testament form tailored to you.

Who Should Keep Your Living Will?

You should give a copy of your living will to your primary doctor and should provide copies to other physicians who perform medical procedures on you. If you have a durable power of attorney for health care, you also should give a copy of your living will to the person you appointed as your attorney-in-fact.

You could also give copies to close family members who you trust. If you think a family member will not honor your end-of-life wishes, you might not want to give them a copy of your living will.

Who Should Keep Your Last Will and Testament?

Unlike living wills, only the original last will and testament that is properly signed and witnessed is legally binding in most states. Copies of a last will and testament usually are not enforceable. State law may allow for two originals and may allow courts to accept a trustworthy copy if the original cannot be located.

It is best to keep the original last will and testament in a safe place. Some law firms will keep the original will on file for you. If your lawyer does not keep originals for clients, local courts often will hold wills on file.

It is not a good idea to use a safe deposit box to store your will. Bank rules for accessing a safe deposit box can make it difficult to obtain the will when the owner is deceased.

Estate planning solutions to fit your needs.

Written by:

Laura Temme, Esq.

Senior Legal Writer

Bridget_Molitor_image

Reviewed by:

Bridget Molitor, J.D.

Managing Editor