The Difference Between a Will and a Living Will

The Difference Between a Will and a Living Will

While they may sound similar, a will and a living will are different types of documents that are used for different purposes in the Zanesville, Ohio area. You may need one or the other, or you may need both, depending on your situation. A will’s purpose is to express your preferences after you have died, while a living will is focused on health care decisions while you are still alive.

Living Will

In short, a living will is a document that explains your preferences for health care should you become terminally ill (and your directives for life support), or if you fall into a persistent vegetative state. This document becomes effective when you cannot communicate your desires on your own. A living will is usually limited to the refusal of, or desire for, medical treatment in the event of:

  • Terminal illness
  • Injury
  • Permanent unconsciousness

If you are in one of these situations and are unable to communicate your desires for care, a living will does your communicating for you. There are also several other names that a living will is often called, including:

  • Advance directive
  • A declaration
  • A declaration regarding life-prolonging procedures

Will

A will, sometimes referred to as “last will and testament” is a document that states your final wishes. A county court will read this document after your death and will see to it that your final wishes are fulfilled. To create a will in Ohio, there are several legal requirements, including:

  • Having “capacity”, meaning you know what property you possess and know what it means to leave it to someone after your death
  • Creating the document that names the beneficiaries of your property
  • Signing the document you created
  • Having your document signed by two witnesses

You can also use your will to:

  • Name an executor
  • Provide for pets
  • Serve as a backup for a living trust
  • Decide how debts and taxes will be paid
  • Name guardians for children and their property

The types of items listed in a will may vary but can include any asset of value that you own, such as real estate, business interests, investments, insurance proceeds, personal property and your personal effects. A will also lets you provide care if you have any minor children and can dictate the assets they receive. If you have a charity you support, your will can direct your assets to the charity of your choice.


If your family has experienced the loss of a family member, our estate lawyers can assist you with the legal process that occurs when a loved one passes away. We can provide families with quality probate and trust administration services tailored to each client’s specific needs and goals. Contact us today to get started.