What is the Difference Between a Will and a Living Will?

This is a common question because the two documents sound similar; however, they serve completely different functions. The function of the Will is described above. A living will, on the other hand, is the letter of instructions to a person’s designated health care agents and physicians detailing the person’s health care wishes, particularly the extent of allowable resuscitation measures, withholding of food and water and any specific instructions relevant to religious or other personal beliefs. It used to be that the Living Will operated in conjunction with the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care to appoint a health care agent and give instructions. Most states still use these documents. However, in California we now use the Advance Health Care Directive, a document that combines the Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care into one. This document is an integral part of any estate plan.