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Is There a Difference Between a Living Will and a Living Trust?

Recently, I was asked if there is a difference between a Living Will and a Living Trust. Yes, there is a difference.

“Living will” is the common name for “Advanced Healthcare Directives.” This document allows you to specify what types of medical treatment you desire in the event that you are terminally ill, comatose, or in a vegetative state and have no reasonable hope for recovery.

Perhaps the most memorable court battle, which might have been avoided by having a living will, is the case of Terri Schiavo. Terri Schiavo suffered a massive heart attack in 1990 that left her comatose for several months. Terri’s condition was then raised to “persistent vegetative state.”

After 8 years of therapy to restore her to some level of awareness, Terri’s husband petitioned the court in 1998 to remove her feeding tube. A battle erupted between Terri’s husband and her parents, who did not want the feeding tube removed. Since Terri had no living will, a trial was held in January 2000 to determine Terri’s wishes regarding life prolonging care. The court determined that Terri would not have wanted the feeding tube and ordered its removal.

Then, Terri’s parents challenged the order to remove the feeding tube. The resulting conflict played out in Florida and Federal courts until March 18, 2005, when the judge issued the final order to remove the feeding tube. Terri passed away on March 31, 2005.

No matter whether one agrees with Terri’s husband or parents, one can see the benefit of a living will.

If you want to express your desires regarding life prolonging care, the Arizona Attorney General has forms available at This website also provides a Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney form which will allow the person you choose to make medical decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated.

Your living will can be registered with the Arizona Secretary of State, who will provide a wallet card notifying emergency responders that you have a living will. Information on registration is available at

A simple definition of a Living Trust is an estate planning tool that is often used to avoid probate and reduce estate taxes. However, the full explanation will have to wait for the next edition.



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Please Note: We are NOT attorneys and do NOT provide legal advice. Your information is confidential, but we do not have attorney-client privilege. If you need legal advice, you will be referred to an attorney.

Arlene Rheinfelder, EA, CP AZCLDP

"I help solve people's problems. There is nothing more rewarding than helping someone through a difficult situation, and helping them to find a good resolution." 


Melissa Hill, AZCLDP

I love the challenge of finding a way to help each person's unique situation. It is never the same because each person is different with their own needs and wants.

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