A Living Will vs. a Simple Will: Which Do You Need?

Kenneth BarneyEstate Planning Lawyer, Kenneth Barney, Wills AttorneyLeave a Comment

Having a will is an important way to make sure that your final wishes are respected and carried out.

Unfortunately, nearly three-quarters of Americans under the age of 34 say they don’t have a last will and testament; more than 40 percent of Baby Boomers don’t have one.

Our Mesa estate planning attorneys know a lot of this has to do with the fact that people have a hard time discussing matters pertaining to death.

But here’s the reality: Everyone dies. It’s a matter of when. Chances are, if you’re in your 30s, 40s, 50s or even 60s, you have plenty of time before you have to worry about dying. However, there is always the possibility that day could come sooner for you or your spouse.

Other reasons people cite include a belief that it’s too expensive, they don’t have many assets to distribute or they’re just procrastinating.

However, when you don’t have a will, and other important legal documents, you are risking the possibility that decisions could be made regarding your health and finances with which you disagree. It could also meant that if you do pass, your assets – including your home, vehicle, pets, savings, etc. – might not go where you wish. Wills make it clear. They give you a voice even when you can no longer speak for yourself, and can also serve to reduce the chances of a bitter dispute among those who are left behind. Knowing your wishes can also provide comfort, by avoiding the necessity of loved ones making tough decisions on your behalf.

It’s especially important for those with young children, as it is the best way to transfer guardianship of minors.

Ideally, you will have both a simple will and a living will. These are two very different legal documents – which people often get confused – but both are important to ensuring your final wishes are carried out.

Let’s start with a living will. The name is a little misleading, with many people assuming it means you make it while you’re alive and designate how your assets will be divided. In fact, a living will is part of your medical power of attorney and addresses your medical wishes in the event of a serious medical injury, a medical power of attorney give proper medical power of attorney to an individual who can speak for you if you are unable to do so. It also provides the opportunity for you to instruct your family, the hospital and your doctors about your wishes regarding whether you want to be kept alive on life support if you have an irreversible condition.

Some people erroneously assume family members will know what you would want in the event this happens. But because it’s something few people discuss, this is not true. Absent your medical power of attorney and a living will, no matter what decision your loved one makes, he or she may always wonder if it was the right choice. A medical power of attorney lifts that burden from their shoulders.

Then there is a simple will or simple last will and testament. A simple will is going to allow you to designate an estate executor to take charge of your affairs after death. This will be the document in which you offer instructions about cremation versus burial, distribution of probate assets and nomination of a conservator or guardian to raise your minor children.

Questions about simple wills versus living wills can be answered by our experienced Arizona estate planning attorneys. When it comes to putting your affairs in order, getting started is at least half the battle.

Contact our Mesa estate planning lawyers at (480) 833-1113.

Additional Resources:

Times change wills, yet many Americans don’t have one, April 30, 2012, By Christine Dugas, USA Today

More Blog Entries:

New Court-Mandated Training for All Persons Serving As a Personal Representative, Conservator or Guardian, Feb. 26, 2013, Mesa Estate Planning Attorney Blog

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