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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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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 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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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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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

Last Will and Testament vs. Power of Attorney

A last will and testament and power of attorney are estate planning documents that are effective under different circumstances. Both forms offer peace of mind to your loved ones; however, they do not replace one another.

Table of Contents

This article explains how each document acts to advance your wishes and how they work together to create an effective estate plan.

What Is a Last Will and Testament?

last will and testament addresses property distribution after you die. It can also create trusts and designate guardians for minor children. A will allows you to carry out your wishes by appointing an executor (or personal representative in some states) who administers your estate in a legal process called probate. Whoever is drafting the will is a testator, while those receiving property or money from your estate are beneficiaries.

Once you create your will, you must sign it in front of two witnesses who are not your estate beneficiaries. In most states, witness signatures must also be notarized. Many people hire attorneys to create their estate plans mainly because witnesses and notary publics are readily available in law offices.

If you need to change your will, you either draft a new will (which revokes previous wills) or a codicil (which makes changes in your will, e.g., changing your executor). These new documents must also be witnessed and notarized.

A will is not effective until your death. If you need someone to manage your property while still alive, execute a power of attorney.

What Is a Power of Attorney?

power of attorney appoints an agent (also called an attorney-in-fact) to manage your affairs. If you wish to appoint someone to manage business, financial, legal, family maintenance, personal and real property, and trust matters, you sign a durable power of attorney. For healthcare decisions, you execute a medical power of attorney and/or a living will (some states combine these into two documents). Medical or healthcare powers of attorney address medical decisions if you cannot communicate, but they do not always include end-of-life decisions. Living wills specifically express your desires regarding treatment for terminal conditions and end-of-life.

You can limit the powers and effective time of your power of attorney. For example, if you cannot attend a real estate closing, you can appoint an agent who only manages that closing. You can also specify an agent for family maintenance and another to run your business. Also, rather than a durable power of attorney, which is effective immediately, you can create a springing power of attorney, which is not effective until a healthcare professional determines you are incapacitated.

A power of attorney becomes ineffective when you die. For wishes and property management after your death, execute a last will and testament.

Do They Have Any Effects on Each Other?

Not really. The last will and testament and power of attorney work together in that one is effective while you are alive and one is effective after you pass away. In a way, they fill in for each other, so you can have a big picture estate plan that addresses all your concerns, including management of daily affairs, medical decisions, and distribution of property after death.

There are different impacts if you do not have a will or power of attorney. If you become incapacitated and do not have a power of attorney, your loved ones must bring a court proceeding to appoint a guardian for you. This individual may not be your top choice to manage personal or business matters, so you only gain certainty if you execute a power of attorney.

If you die without a will, the court determines property distribution through intestate statutes. These state laws prioritize immediate family and do not have provisions for giving money to charity, taking care of pets, or making sure unmarried partners receive a share of your estate. Even if your power of attorney designates someone to take care of these matters, it is no longer in effect after you die.

Who Should Keep Your Will?

Provide copies of your will to close friends or family members, your executor, and your estate planning attorney. Keep the original of your will in a safety deposit box or a fireproof filing cabinet.

Estate planning solutions to fit your needs.

Who Should Keep Your Power of Attorney?

Provide copies of your power of attorney to close friends or family members, your agent, and your estate planning attorney. Keep your original power of attorney in a safety deposit box or a fireproof filing cabinet. If you execute a medical power of attorney, provide a copy to your primary care provider too.

Do I Need an Attorney to Create a Will or Power of Attorney?

If you are a wage earner, rather than a business owner, and your property disposition plan is easy, you can likely find online forms for a will or power of attorney and complete them. Once you finish them, call an estate planning attorney to review your documents. You will receive the reassurance that they are enforceable, plus you can likely sign your document and have easier access to witnesses and notary publics to finalize your will and power of attorney.

However, there are circumstances where involving an attorney is critical. These include:

  • Chronic or terminal illness
  • Majority ownership in a business
  • Substantial real estate holdings
  • Family conflict involving live-in partners, disinherited relatives, or life circumstances (e.g., gender transition, sexual orientation, or religion)

You may pay more to retain legal advice, but the peace of mind is often worth it. Consider cutting down on these expenses and having something available for attorney review. Even if you complete any legal document incorrectly, your attorney gains a solid idea of your desires.

Finally, hiring an attorney creates a more complete estate plan. Besides drafting a will and durable power of attorney, you may also benefit from a:

  • Healthcare power of attorney
  • Healthcare directive
  • Do not resuscitate order (DNR)
  • Living will
  • Living or testamentary trust

Need a Will and Power of Attorney? Find a Local Estate Planning Lawyer

While this article contains a detailed explanation of the difference between a last will and testament and power of attorney, speaking with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney is the best course of action. They can help you determine your will and power of attorney’s contents and recommend other documents for your estate plan.

Estate planning solutions to fit your needs.

Written by:

Jocelyn Mackie, J.D.

Contributing Author

Bridget_Molitor_image

Reviewed by:

Bridget Molitor, J.D.

Managing Editor