KNOW THE DIFFERENCE: Will vs. Personal Directive

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Posted by heritagelawoffices on Aug 15, 2016 in Blog, Wills & Estate

It is unpleasant to think about, but everyone over the age of 18 should have a will and personal directive in case the worst happens. To many, an estate plan is synonymous with these documents– but in fact, a will and a personal directive are only two parts that make up the whole of careful and considerate estate planning. Creating a will or a personal directive does not have to cost any money, but there are many factors to contemplate. Read on for a crash course!


In short, a will controls what happens to you and your estate after you die. The keystone of any good estate plan, the legal document known as a will disperses your property as you instructed after your death. A will can also name a representative known as an executor to carry out your instructions, as well as a guardian to care for any children under the age of 18. Living wills are put in place to handle your “end-of-life” wishes should you be alive but unable to make decisions– these are more similar to personal directives, which are detailed in the next section.


Unlike a will, a personal directive controls who handles your affairs if an illness or injury renders you unable to make serious decisions. Personal directives can also contain written instructions from the individual, indicating what course to take. While more general than a living will, personal directives can have many consequences as they impact your legal affairs, activity level, place of residence, as well as childrearing and health care decision-making. The person (or people) named in your personal directive as decision maker(s) is (are) called agent(s).

There you have it: wills and personal directives, sorted. If it only it was that easy! Feel free to seek out DIY alternatives– but the more established you are, the more that can go wrong when settling your estate. Contact or visit Heritage Law today and ensure your family and loved ones are protected when you can no longer make those decisions.