Many people use the terms “living trust” and “living will” interchangeably. Although both contain the word “living”, they are very different legal documents that accomplish different goals. A person may prepare both a living trust and a living will as a part of an estate plan.
A living trust is a document that a person sets up to hold ownership to his or her assets. A living trust takes title to the assets while the person is living, so that once he or she passes away it is not necessary to go through the probate process in order for the beneficiaries to receive their inheritance.
Instead, the trustee of the living trust bypasses the probate system and gives those assets directly from the trust to the beneficiaries. A trustee of a living trust also has the ability to manage the trust’s assets in the event the trustor (the person who set up the trust) becomes incapacitated. A revocable living trust can be changed or revoked at any time while the trustor is alive, but becomes irrevocable once the trustor has passed away.
A living will is a document in which a person expresses his or her wishes about life support. A healthcare proxy also can appoint someone that to make healthcare decisions for an individual in the event he or she can no longer make those decisions. A living will and healthcare proxy are a vital part of an estate plan, and can prevent a lot of heartache for families that are faced with the decision about whether or not to remove life support from a loved one.
A well-executed estate plan will typically include a will, a living will, a healthcare proxy, a durable power of attorney, and also a living trust depending on the circumstances. If you are in New York and are interested in learning more about living trust, living wills, and other estate planning documents, call the New York probate attorneys at Friedman & Ranzenhofer at 716-542-5444. Our attorneys will be happy to help you with your estate planning needs.