A Last Will and Testament (or Will) is a document that provides for the disposition of your estate through probate court, following your death. A Living Will is a document which describes the kind of medical treatment you would want if suffering from a terminal condition and unable to express your wishes. A Revocable (or Living) Trust is a substitute for a Will that provides for the management of your assets while alive, the disposition of your assets following death, and also avoids the need for probate.
All of these documents are best prepared by a qualified estate planning attorney.
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I agree with Mr. Frederick. The two documents serve different purposes. Your Will controls a number of things after you pass away: Who inherits your property? Who should administer your estate during the probate process? How should your debts be paid upon your death?
A Living Will is used while you are alive, but incapacitated and unable to communicate your wishes as to the kinds of medical treatments you would agree to have performed. Depending on your state, a Living Will (or advance directive) may not even be legally binding (it's not in MA, for example). However, it should serve as powerful evidence of your wishes for those making medical decisions for you. That said, it is also advisable to create and sign a medical power of attorney, naming someone you trust as your healthcare agent with the power to make those difficult medical decisions for you if you are unable.
You should consult with an estate planning attorney in your area to ensure that your estate plan matches your specific goals and needs.
Hope this helps.
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Yes, the documents are very different. The true term for a "living will" is a Directive to Physicians and is a statutory document to declare your intentions in case of final illness, e.g. do you want to be on a ventilator if you are brain dead? As a single Mom, it is critical that you plan. You need a will, a directive, including a medical power of attorney, and a financial power of attorney. These documents may be very straightforward and not expensive to prepare. This is an important thing to do to make sure your daughter is cared for in case you are unable or have passed away.
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Although you do not NEED either document, they will become very helpful to your daughter. The Living Will is also known as the "Declaration of Intent regarding life support". This document allows you to make your decisions now about whether and when you want treatment/nutrition/life support machines used to prolong your life. Your daughter then will not have to guess or get court assistance to remove any of these if you have a valid Living Will appointing her as your agent to carryout your stated wishes on these issues.
The Will or otherwise know as the Last Will and Testament is also a very helpful document as it does more than name your daughter as a beneficiary. It can provide a waiver of the requirements to buy and post a bond or to file an inventory with a court. It can name her as representative and make it much easier for her to sign your final tax return and also to close accounts and process life insurance policies.
I strongly recommend you have both documents, and also that your daughter, assuming she is an adult, also have both documents created and signed as soon as possible.