Virginia Beach Will Attorney Answers “What Is the Difference Between a Living Will and a Simple Will?”

Some people assume a simple will and a living will are similar or that the terms can be used interchangeably. However, just because they both use the term “will” in their names does not mean they accomplish the same things. They are actually vastly different documents.

Below are the main differences between a simple will and a living will so you understand what people use them for and whether one or both is right for you.

What Is a Last Will and Testament (or Simple Will)?

A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that provides instructions on how and to whom you want to distribute your assets upon your death. The person who gives instructions for the Will is called the testator/testatrix. Beneficiaries are the individuals receiving the deceased’s assets.

Assets can include anything you own, such as:

  • Checking, savings, and investment accounts
  • Real estate
  • Motor vehicles
  • Personal items

You can also use a Last Will and Testament to choose a guardian or guardians if you have minor children or adult dependents. Your pets can also go to the person who agreed to adopt them after you die if you designate that in your Will.

You would appoint an executor when you create a Last Will and Testament. The executor is the person responsible for working with the courts (in Virginia it is the Commissioner of Accounts) to settle your estate by gathering the assets, paying taxes and debts, distributing your property to the appropriate beneficiaries, closing your accounts, and completing additional required tasks.

If you do not have a Will, Virginia State law could determine which surviving relatives your assets should go to. For example, many states use intestate succession, where a person’s heirs receive the deceased’s property in order of succession, starting with a spouse or child, and is governed by State Statute.

What Is a Living Will?

A Living Will is an entirely separate and distinct legal document from a Last Will and Testament. While a Will provides instructions on what should happen when you die, a Living Will is a legal document that outlines your medical treatment decisions that you would, and would not, want to be used to keep you alive. It can also spell out other preferences for medical treatment and end-of-life care should you become incapacitated in some way and are unable to communicate. It can make medical decisions about your healthcare such as pain management.

In a living will, you may specify your wishes regarding certain scenarios and treatment options such as:

  • Blood transfusions
  • Organ and body donation
  • Dialysis
  • Breathing tubes or ventilators and other extraordinary life-saving measures
  • Medications and devices
  • Feeding tubes

Living wills provide strict instructions to loved ones and doctors about how you want to spend the remainder of your life if you are in a traumatic accident, develop a terminal illness, or otherwise become incapable of making medical decisions that pertain to treatment that would be used to keep you alive.

Choosing Between a Will and Living Will

The main difference between a simple will and a living will is what they protect. A living will protects your intentions pertaining to end-of-life decisions. A simple will protects your assets and beneficiaries at your death.

In addition to other important legal documents, it is beneficial to have both a living will and a simple will. Each document can meet your needs and the needs of your family in diverse ways. A Will ensures your family upholds your final wishes for asset distribution if something happens to you. A Living Will spares your loved ones from the responsibility of making complex decisions on your behalf. When it is all laid out on paper, no one must guess what you would want.

Talk to a Knowledgeable Estate Planning Attorney Today

Contact an Estate Planning attorney today to discuss your circumstances and whether a simple will, a living will, or both are right for you. We have offices located in Williamsburg, Newport News, Virginia Beach, or McLean; contact us at (757) 645-3176 or  866-603-5976 to schedule your consultation.