Last Will, Living Will, Living Trust, Advance directive & Power of Attorney comparative summary

Even though all estate planning documents look similar in naming and features, but the intent and the end goal is pretty distinct.

In the lifetime, there are estate planning documents are created to manage affairs in the life while others after death and these documents may include Last Will, Living Will, Living Trust, Power of attorney, Personal or medical directives, Healthcare directive, etc. Depending on the document type, there will be two or more witnesses required to convert into legally binding. Some documents may or may not need notary or lawyer such as las will, however, some may require the notary or lawyer to sign off, for instance, the power of attorney. Document owner, witnesses, lawyer (or notary) must be present and signing off witnessing each other's to make the document to be legally valid. All documents can be revoked and canceled at any time except the irrevocable living trust.

Last Will Vs. Power of Attorney

Last Will is a document created by the testator (a husband, wife or an adult who owns the estate) to express his or her wishes and provide directions to manage the estate's distribution to inheritors. Testators have the opportunity to carry out their wishes regarding wealth, social, religious or morals. Testator appoints two or more executors in the last will who will come into play after testator dies. Last Will and Power of Attorney owners of a document must appoint a representative for carrying out affairs during the lifetime. Last will have the representative called executors, while Power of Attorney document has representative called power of attorney (in General), enduring attorney (in Canada) or an Agent (in the USA).

Personal directive Vs. Power of Attorney

The personal directive is used to give power to an agent for healthcare, accommodations, to whom you may live or associate, participation in social, community, educational, employment or cultural activities or Legal matters. However, the personal directive does not give an agent an authority for money, property and financial issues for which you will need to create Power of Attorney or Enduring power of attorney document. The personal directive is only in effect when you are alive.

Advance directive Vs. Enduring Power of Attorney

Advance (or advance care or Healthcare) directive that allows you to set out how personal care decisions, including health care decisions, are to be made for you when you are not mentally capable of making those decisions. It is only in effect when you are alive and mentally incapable of speaking for yourself. A Personal or Advance (or advance care or Healthcare) directive does not appoint a person to act on your behalf while Enduring Power of Attorney does.

Living Trust & Living Will

Living Trust is another essential estate planning tool, often confused with Living will. Both documents have minor similarities but do possess significant differences. A living will come into play when—and only when—you can't voice your wishes while Living Trust will be active immediately after you created, though both have the different purposes. A living trust can be used to covers all phases of life including living life while mentally capable or incapable as well as managing estate distributions after death. A living will do much the same thing concerning your health care, and it expresses your wishes at a time when you're unable to do so. One similarity between a revocable living trust and a living will is that both safeguard against mental incapacitation.

Living Will vs Advance Directive

A Living Will and Advance directive have the intent to achieve the similar objective in deciding on healthcare related wishes. However, they have some variations across jurisdictions. Sometimes living Will may be incorporated into an advance medical directive, a legal document that allows you to designate someone else to make health care decisions for you if you're unable to do so yourself. An advance medical directive isn't the same thing as a living will because a living will don't name or appoint anyone else to speak for you. It merely states your wishes in advance and explains under what circumstances you want health care providers to attempt to prolong your life or to cease life-sustaining measures.


  1. Estate Planning

  2. Last Wills & Testament

  3. Living Will

  4. Power or Attorney

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