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When engaged in the estate planning process, many Ohio residents mistakenly believe they must choose between either a living will or a last will.
However, both these tools can be critically important for giving your loved ones some much-needed peace of mind.
Each document fulfills a different, yet important, role in providing guidance in the event of your incapacitation or death.
What is a living will?
A living will, also known as an advance healthcare directive, provides clear instructions on the medical treatments you do and do not wish to receive if you become incapacitated and unable to make these decisions for yourself. You would grant an individual you trust, known as an agent, to communicate with healthcare personnel on the various orders you’ve outlined beforehand.
For example, some people stipulate that they do not want to continue on life support after a certain amount of time has passed. Making these tough decisions now will help your loved ones feel more comfortable that they are taking the right actions if this situation arises.
The purpose of a last will
A last will serves a different role and only goes into effect upon your passing. The document outlines which beneficiaries should receive certain assets and property contained within your estate. You would name an executor (again, typically a trusted friend or relative) to administer the last will, pay any debts and taxes and divide property amongst your beneficiaries per your wishes.
This estate planning document should be as clear and detailed as possible to avoid a probate court making any key decisions regarding your estate. Your executor must also be someone who is honest and has the ability to administer your estate efficiently.
Why you should have both
You do not need to decide between setting up a living will or a last will. Both documents are critical to settling your estate and removing some of the headaches that could result after your passing. Leaving your loved ones without either one could cause a great deal of uncertainty on both fronts.
As you plan for the years ahead, it’s important to establish both a living will and a last will as early as possible, even if you are relatively young. It is also wise to revisit these documents at least once per year and make any necessary revisions, especially if you have experienced a major life change like a divorce, a new marriage, the birth of a child or a significant adjustment to your income or level of wealth.
To learn more about your options for establishing a plan that upholds your wishes and protects your loved ones, work with a dedicated estate planning attorney at Seif & McNamee. From our offices in Waverly and Chillicothe, we serve clients throughout Ohio.