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The difference between a will and a living will

Drafting an estate plan is an essential step for Michigan residents to take. While many will put the process off until they are older, taking the time to carefully construct the documents of an estate plan early on could prove beneficial. A will is a vital document to include in an estate plan, as it is the best way to communicate your wishes after your death. Although many understand the role of a will, many do not recognize the difference between a will and a living will, noting the function each document can play.

A will and a living will are two different documents that serve two different purposes. A will, which is the document with which most people are familiar, applies when a person dies. On the other hand, a living will applies while an individual is alive.

A will is specifically used to designate the beneficiaries and heirs that will receive your assets and property after your death. Additionally, a will is a tool used by parents to name a guardian for their children in the event that the parents pass away. Thus, it is even important for young parent to include this document in their estate plan because one can ever be too prepared, and it is never wrong to take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones.

A living will serves a different purpose, focusing on vital aspects of life while you are alive. Instead of protecting your assets, a living will addresses your health. In other words, a living will is used to memorialize your wishes in the event that you end up on life support and have no chance of recovery. Specifically, a living will is what health care providers use to inform them of your wishes in the event that you become incapacitated.

Whether you are drafting a will or a living will, it is important that these documents are clear about your wishes. If it is confusing or unclear, others can be left guessing what your wishes might have been. Such unclarity could result in a contested will and a long legal battle to resolve the matter. Therefore, it is crucial that those drafting a will or living will understand what these documents should include and how to ensure their validity.

Source: The Daily Sentinel, "What's the difference between a will and a living will?" Garrett Forsgren and Steve Wright, June 10, 2017

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