Are living trusts and living wills the same?

2 answers | Last updated: Dec 04, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Does a living will act the same as a living trust in the state of Virginia?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

Although they have similar names, these are two very different animals. Both are documents you might encourage your parents to consider in setting out their wishes for their property and final care as part of a comprehensive estate plan.

In Virginia, what was historically known as a living will has been folded into a document called an advance medical directive, also called an advance health care directive in many other states.

Under Virginia law, your parents can use this document to:

  • specify what life-prolonging medical procedures should be withheld or withdrawn if they are diagnosed with a terminal condition
  • appoint another trusted person to make health care decisions if they become incapable of doing so, and
  • direct that their body, organs, tissues, or eyes be donated for medical study at death.

A living trust, on the other hand, concentrates not on medical care, but on property. It is a sort of legal fiction that allows your parents to have and control the trust assets during their lifetimes, then shift ownership of that to a named trustee when they die. A living trust has the same effect as a will, except that it allows property to pass directly to the new owner, doing an end run around the process of probate -- which adds time and expense to winding up final affairs.

Community Answers

Villager5 answered...

Doesnt a living trust prevent the state from stepping in & grabbing the house if there are medical costs?