Q: If a person has a living will, why do they need a living trust?

A: Ah yes; the living will vs. living trust question. Believe it or not, I get this question a couple of times each year.

The simplest answer is that living wills and living trusts are not the same thing. Other than both having the word living in them, they don't have a lot in common.

The problem is that a lot of estate planning documents sound alike. Living wills sound like living trusts. Living will sound like wills. Come to think of it, maybe the real problem is that we call living wills, living wills.

A living will is an advanced medical directive. In simple terms, the living will addresses end of life decisions.

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If you are terminally ill, death will occur within short period of time and providing you with medical care will only serve to prolong the dying process, you have the right to refuse to receive that care. It doesn't apply to care intended to keep you comfortable while you are dying. It only applies to things that will only force your body to stay alive.

Now some of you might be wondering if a living will is an advanced medical directive, why don't they just call it that. I suspect the answer really comes down to two things. The first is that advanced medical directive is quite a mouthful. It doesn't exactly roll of the tongue like living will.

The other reason is because there are more than one kind of advanced medical directives. The flip side to a living will is a life prolonging procedure declaration. The life prolonging procedure declaration announces that its creator wants everything the medical field has to offer because they plan on sticking around.

Living trusts are simply the most common form of revocable trusts that offer a bunch of benefits to the grantor during their life time and after their death. However, most people concentrate on the testamentary benefits they offer. People use them to get their stuff to their loved ones in a convenient way.

This question comes up at least a few times each year. Honestly I don't think people confuse the document so much as they confuse the names. Just remember that a complete estate plan is going to include a bunch of documents, each of which provides certain benefits. It's important to understand what each one does, even if you can't keep the names straight.

Christopher W. Yugo is an attorney in Crown Point. Chris’ Estate Planning Article appears online every Sunday at www.nwi.com. Address questions to Chris in care of The Times, 601 W. 45th Ave., Munster, IN 46321 or to Chrisyugolaw@gmail.com. Chris’ information is meant to be general in nature. Specific legal, tax, or insurance questions should be referred to your attorney, accountant, or estate-planning specialist.