Q:

What is the difference between a living will and a living trust?

A:

Quick Answer

A living will only outlines end-of-life health care decisions such as use of life support and organ donation. On the other hand, a living trust is strictly related to the distribution of an estate.

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Full Answer

A living will, also commonly known as a health care or physician's directive, specifically determines which life-prolonging procedures and treatments an incapacitated individual allows. It can also be used as a legal document to designate medical power of attorney to someone else. That person can make medical decisions for the incapacitated individual as long as these decisions don't conflict with specifically declared provisions of the living will.

In contrast, living trusts designate the beneficiaries of an estate. They preclude the need for an estate to proceed through probate court, which is generally an expensive and time-consuming process. A living trust allows for immediate property transference in the event of physical or mental incapacitation without the need to separately arrange for a guardian or conservator. This type of document is also useful because it keeps the matters of an estate off public record.

A living trust is generally more expensive and time-consuming than a last will, not to be confused with a living will. A living trust transfers ownership of property to be distributed to a trust, which can complicate matters of refinancing and creditor claims. A living trust also lacks a means of establishing the guardianship of minor children.

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