People often confuse these two documents or think that they are both one in the same. The Last Will and Testament is not the same as the Living Will document, for the two documents serve two distinctly different purposes. The Last Will and Testament is the document that becomes effective after death and states: 1) Who you would like your Executor, the estate representative, to be to ensure that your wishes are carried out after your death and to advise the probate court to waive bond for the Executor; 2) How you want your assets to be distributed after your death; and 3) Who you would like to serve as the Guardian and Custodian for your minor children and your minor children's personal and financial affairs after your death.
The Living Will, however, is only in force when a person is alive. This document has been the center of many court battles in the media, most notably the Rebecca Schiavo case, and recently, the Casey Kasem case. The main purpose of the Living Will is to provde end-of-lif instructions, and to communicate how you wish to treated medically if you were permanently unconscious and there was no hope for your recovery. The estate planning attorneys of Borenstrin, McConnell & Caplin in New Jersey wrote a great summary for why the Living Will is so important. Read the article here for more information on this important document that should be included in everyone's estate plan.