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Last Will, Living Trust, Power of Attorney or Living Will

Recommended for People who want to distribute property to loved ones and name guardians for minor children. People who want to transfer property to loved ones quickly and privately, generally avoiding probate. People who want to appoint an individual to make key legal and financial decisions on their behalf. People who want to specify their wishes for medical care and artificial life support in advance.
Specifies guardianship for minor children? Yes. A last will can establish guardianship for minor children. Yes. A LegalZoom Living Trust includes a free "pour-over" will that allows you to name guardians for minor children.1 No. A power of attorney does not establish guardianship. No. A living will does not establish guardianship.
Outlines medical wishes if you are unable to communicate? No. A last will does not specify medical wishes. No. A living trust does not specify medical wishes. No. LegalZoom's Power of Attorney documents do not specify medical wishes. Yes. A LegalZoom Living Will allows you to make decisions regarding life support, pain medication, artificial nutrition, organ donation, and how anatomical gifts are to be distributed, as allowed by the laws in your state.
Assigns someone to handle personal financial affairs? No. A last will nominates an executor (personal representative) to ensure your instructions are carried out. No. A living trust nominates a "successor trustee" to ensure your trust's instructions are followed. Yes. A power of attorney appoints someone to handle specific legal or financial affairs. You can grant powers in as many or as few legal or financial areas as you wish (banking, insurance, real estate, etc.). No. A LegalZoom Living Will includes a Healthcare Power of Attorney that appoints someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to communicate your wishes.
Is it private? Last wills are probated in court and become a matter of public record.2 Yes. A living trust distributes assets privately and does not usually require probate court.1 Yes. In most cases, the details of a power of attorney remain private. Yes. The details of a living will are kept between you, your family and your physician.
When does it go into effect? Goes into effect upon your death, but probating an estate and receiving court approval to distribute the property can be costly and time consuming depending upon state law and the complexity of your estate. Goes into effect immediately when the document is signed and the trust is funded. A living trust helps speed the transfer of assets to loved ones. Goes into effect immediately, or upon a specific event (e.g., incapacitation, travel). Dates of duration can also be specified. Goes into effect upon incapacitation.
Requires court involvement?4 Yes. A last will must generally go through probate court. No. A living trust helps avoid probate court, saving your loved ones delays and court and attorneys fees.1 No. A power of attorney does not generally require court involvement. No. A living will does not generally require court involvement.
Duration No expiration, but can be revised or revoked at any time. No expiration date is required, but a living trust can have an expiration date. Can be revised or revoked at any time.3 Duration depends on the type of power of attorney, but can be revised or revoked at any time. No expiration, but can be revised or revoked at any time.
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1 A LegalZoom Living Trust includes a "pour-over Last Will", which may be subject to probate court. This "pour-over Last Will" can establish guardianship of minor children.
2 All last wills are subject to probate court, unless the total value of your estate is below the statutory minimum.
3 With an A/B trust, if one spouse dies, that spouse's half of the trust becomes irrevocable.
4 Any document that is challenged by a third party may be reviewed in court.