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Do I need a will or a living will?

A useful document when planning for the unexpected is a “will.” We also hear the term “living will.” You may be wondering, what is the difference? A will is a document that gives direction as to what happens with one’s property and assets after death. A living will is an advanced healthcare directive that provides instructions for medical care if you become incapacitated.

The big difference between these two documents is how private they are. When you die, your will is executed, goes through probate, and becomes a public record. A living will is a private document that is only viewed by the people responsible for taking care of you. Let’s break down the difference between these two important documents.

Last Will and Testament

A will or “last will and testament” is a legal document that states how to handle your estate after you die. A will is only executed after you pass away. You also appoint an executor, or main person to handle your affairs. Some examples of what a will handles are instructions for inheritance to your children.

If you have multiple children and you want specific items or assets to go to certain children due to their current life situation, you can state this in your will. It’s also a good idea to update your will every so often as things do change over time.

Living Will

A living will is essentially a playbook for your healthcare directives if you become incapacitated. With a living will in place it can help your loved ones make tough decisions for you, say when you're in a coma. Since you will be unable to communicate your wishes, the living will explain your wishes for different healthcare scenarios.

Living will requirements vary by each state. You will want a lawyer to set up a living will for you to make sure everything is properly set up. A living will must be created for you when you are of “sound mind.” You must have a designated executor and two witnesses when creating a living will.

What Happens Without a Will or Living Will

If you die without a will the state will evenly distribute your assets between your spouse and children. If you don’t have a living spouse or children then your assets go to parents, grandparents, grandchildren, brothers, sisters or any relatives of your deceased spouse. As you can see, if you don’t have a Will in place it can really put a strain on your surviving heirs. If you don’t have a will and none of the mentioned relatives alive, your property gets assigned to the state you live in.

If you are incapacitated and in a vegetative state without a living will, then your spouse and doctors will make decisions for you. They won’t have any direction since you haven’t prepared and this can put a huge burden on your loved ones.

Setting up a will and living will are relatively inexpensive. You can have a lawyer create them for you in a price range of $200 to $500. A small price to pay to alleviate a bunch of stress for your loved ones if something unexpected happens. Within Addio, you can easily save your will and add all of your important details so your executor will know exactly what to do in case the unexpected happens.

Should you create an online will or use an attorney?

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Gabe Caldwell
Gabe Caldwell

Gabe Caldwell is an entrepreneur, investor, biohacker and co-founder at Addio. He leads Addio’s partnership efforts and makes sure that families have access to the top experts in Addio’s Expert Network. In his free time, you can find him riding bikes, lifting weights, or playing beach volleyball.

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