When a loved one dies, the memories they leave behind in the minds and hearts of their family and friends are forever. Having a will and/or an estate in place is a great way to ensure that one’s property and belongings are not subject to legal battles amongst family members, bringing an additional level of peace to those involved. But what is the difference between a will and estate planning? Is one better than the other? Should you have both in place? Let us discuss what a will is as well as what estate planning involves so you can make the best end-of-life decisions for you and your family.

What is a Will?

A will is a written, legal document expressing the wishes of a deceased person, written while they are still alive. The purpose of this document is to protect the wishes of the deceased that are specifically laid out in such. This document usually dictates who will take care of the deceased’s children, who will take over all business ventures, and who will receive the property and assets that they leave behind.

How does it work? When you have a will, an executor is appointed to be sure that the directions laid out in the will are followed. Once the person has passed on, the family will proceed to probate court, in which the court will validate the legality of the will and determine whether the will has been properly executed. They will also determine what portions of the assets and property go to beneficiaries based on the text of the document. Having a will can help your family avoid disputes after death over property or assets and additionally, save them some money by avoiding hefty legal fees to determine how to value and split the belongings.

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is a more comprehensive process that uses multiple documents, including a will, to secure your assets after your death. It is a complete plan to maximize benefits to your heirs and may also include dictating your wishes for end-of-life care. The purpose of this plan is to ensure that your wishes are not left to question or met with uncertainty in your last days.

How does it work? Estate planning involves writing a Last Will and Testament and/or a Trust instrument in addition to other documents to more fully solidify your last wishes. Other documents that are included in the estate planning process include, but are not limited to:

  • Durable Power of Attorney: Appoints someone to handle the finances.
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney: Appoints someone to make medical decision on your behalf.
  • Lifecare Plan: Your decisions on life-prolonging treatment options

The loss of a loved one can be extremely difficult, but if that loved one had a will or went through estate planning, the stress of their heirs is alleviated. Both provide peace of mind to the families, knowing that their loved one’s requests are honored. If you have any questions regarding a loved one’s last wishes or wish to provide that peace of mind to your family when you are gone, contact Latiolais Law Firm!