The term Living Will is incredibly misleading and confusing as it has nothing to do with a Last Will & Testament (a/k/a Will).

A Living Will also has NOTHING to do with a Living Trust.

So what is a Living Will? Here’s another self-important phrase – Advanced Directive. Sounds like something from a Sci-Fi show doesn’t it. “Captain Kirk or Picard – Advanced Directive!”

An Advanced Directive/Living Will is our opportunity to let our Health Care Agent, family, and medical team know what kinds of extraordinary care do or don’t want in the event of a serious illness or accident. That illness or accident often results in a greatly diminished quality of life that we may or may not want to prolong.

While these documents have no “legal” effect in Massachusetts, they are incredibly helpful to our Health Care Agent, family and medical team. It is our chance to say what we do or don’t want, by way of extraordinary treatment, and have our voices continue to be heard. This can be especially important in managing family dynamics so one adult child does not think another adult child (the Health Care Agent) is imposing his or her own wishes on Mom or Dad.

This document is about our health and quality of life…it has NOTHING to do with our assets.

A Living Trust (a/k/a Revocable Trust) is a mechanism we use to manage our assets! It’s about our stuff, not ourselves.

It functions as a vault. While we are alive, if it’s our name on the top of the document, that vault stays open. We can put in whatever we want, take out whatever we want. After we pass, that vault door closes and locks. Only our named successor trustee has the key and can only distribute assets in the vault according to the instructions we’ve left to the people we’ve named in the document. It also helps us avoid probate and keeps our beneficiary and asset information private (provided the trust gets funded).

Generally, we need both! These documents do have similarities in that both are instructional documents for the people who will need to act on our wishes and instructions. Really that’s all estate planning is. Providing people of our choosing instructions on our wishes about ourselves and our stuff.

Do you have your instructions in place? Are you instructions out of date? Click here to set up a no-fee 20-minute consultation and we’ll get your instructions in place so you can cross this perennial item off your “to-do” list.

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