Is a living will different from a living trust?
UPDATED: June 19, 2018
It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.
We strive to help you make confident law decisions. Finding trusted and reliable legal advice should be easy. This doesn't influence our content. Our opinions are our own.
A living will and a living trust are two very different legal instruments. A living trust can help you manage and control property during your lifetime and can also allow you to distribute that property upon your death. When you create a living trust, you do so while you are still alive. This means that in most cases, you name yourself as the trustee. You will transfer all or most of your property to the trust during your lifetime. A living will, by contrast, is not actually a will at all, but a tool that can allow you to control and manage your health care if you become incapacitated.
Revocable Living Trusts
Living trusts are also sometimes called revocable trusts, because the property that you transfer into your trust can also be transferred out of it at any time. You can also change or cancel the trust itself whenever you wish. This is what makes it truly revocable.
If you establish a living trust, you will also need to name a successor trustee. The successor will control the living trust after you are no longer able to manage it. After your death, the successor trustee will be responsible for distributing the trust properties to your beneficiaries under the directions provided in the trust. A central benefit of the living trust process is that it helps you prevent your estate from going through probate.
A living will is much simpler than a living trust, and it controls a different set of affairs. A living will allows you to document how you want your health care to be handled if you should become incapacitated and unable to make health care decisions for yourself. For example, you might use a living will to state that you don’t want to be kept on life support longer than a specified time unless there’s a strong likelihood you will recover; or you might say that you want to be kept on life support as long as possible. A living will doesn’t concern your property, only your desires regarding health care.
For more information on establishing a living trust or living will, explore our articles on estate planning. If you are interested in creating a living trust, be sure to consult with a qualified estate planning lawyer in order to ensure you have created the most effective trust possible for yourself and for your heirs.