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What are the different types of wills?

Don't know which type of will is right for you? Read on to learn the options for you and your family

Do you have a will? If you haven’t yet set up this important estate planning document, it might be for one of three reasons:

1, Maybe you don’t believe you have enough assets to qualify for a will. (Which, although we don’t know your individual situation, probably isn’t true.)

2, Maybe you’re procrastinating on writing a will because you think it’s going to take a lot of time and effort (also not true).

3, Maybe you’re putting off writing a will because you don’t know what type of will is best for you.

That’s where Haven Life can help. Haven Life has partnered with Trust & Will to offer simple, streamlined will-creation services — and Haven Term policyholders who take advantage of the Haven Life Plus rider can use these services to write a will at no extra cost.

What kind of will should you write? The answer is simple — literally.

“A Simple Will is the kind of will that most people are familiar with,” explains Patrick Hicks, head of legal at Trust & Will. When you create a Simple Will, you’re constructing a document that will instruct your survivors on how you’d like to distribute your assets after your death — as well as what kind of funeral arrangements you might prefer. If you have children or pets who might need additional guardianship, a Simple Will can also formalize those relationships.

A Simple Will is considered a Last Will, which is one of the two major types of wills. The other type is a Living Will, which is an advanced health care directive that designates what should happen if you are no longer able to advocate on your own behalf.

So, before you learn how to create a will online, here’s what you need to know about each type of will — and why you should consider creating both a Last Will and a Living Will.

In this article:

Last Will

“Ultimately, all Last Wills serve the same purpose,” Hicks told us. “A will disposes of assets, nominates guardians for children and pets, and specifies your final arrangements.”

There are many different ways to create a Last Will. You could take pen to paper and write out a holographic will — that’s the official name for a handwritten will. You could also dictate your will, creating an oral will (sometimes called a nuncupative will). Or you could work with a service like Trust & Will to create a customized, state-specific Last Will and Testament.

Trust & Will offers eligible Haven Term policyholders the opportunity to write a Simple Will for no cost — a straightforward, easy-to-create document that addresses all three of the goals associated with a Last Will. “A Simple Will is a core, basic will,” explains Hicks. “It is a written document, it is signed by the testator and it is witnessed by two people.”

It takes about 10 minutes to create a Simple Will through Trust & Will — which is just about the same amount of time that it takes to apply for an affordable term life insurance plan through Haven Life.

“The thing about a Simple Will is that it’s designed to be simple,” Hicks explains. “It handles fundamental needs. If you have a more complex situation, you may need a more complex set of documents — but most people have some kind of Simple Will even as part of a complex estate plan. Every toolbox has a screwdriver, and every estate plan has a basic Last Will.”

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Living Will

“A Living Will is actually a healthcare document,” Hicks told us. “It’s an advance healthcare directive.” Unlike a Last Will, which clarifies what you would like to happen after your death, a Living Will clarifies what you would like to happen while you are still alive.

However, it is important to remember that a Living Will is different from a Living Trust. A Living Will is a legal document for medical affairs, meanwhile, a Living Trust is a legal document for financial interests.

In most cases, a Living Will comes into play when you are unable to make decisions on your own behalf — if you were in a coma, for example. A standard Living Will identifies not only how your healthcare should be managed in that kind of situation, but also which person is authorized to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.

By using a Living Will to create a healthcare proxy or give a loved one power of attorney, you ensure that you have a trusted person who can advocate on your behalf when you are no longer able to advocate for yourself.

“Everyone needs a Last Will,” says Hicks. “Everyone also needs a set of healthcare documents that includes a Living Will.”

What is the difference between a will and a trust?

Trust & Will, as the name implies, offers both trusts and wills — but does that mean you need to consider creating both a will and a trust? Not necessarily.

“Trusts and wills are two different classes of documents that can be used for estate planning,” Hicks told us. Wills go into effect after you die, but trusts go into effect as soon as they are created — allowing you to plan your children’s inheritances in advance, specify how a family business should be transferred to the next generation or set aside funds to cover your own long-term care. A good trust can even help you protect your real estate or digital assets from estate tax or lengthy probate court processes — and you can even name a trust as a life insurance beneficiary.

Every adult should prepare a basic Last Will, especially if they have children who might need guardianship after their death. Trusts are more flexible, and much more individualized — and although setting up a trust could benefit you and your loved ones, you should start by creating a will.

In fact, it’s probably a good idea to create both kinds of wills — a Living Will and a Last Will. That way, you’ll have a document that specifies what happens to your estate after your death, and a document that specifies what happens if you are unable to make healthcare decisions on your own behalf.

Remember — a life insurance policy isn’t the only way to protect and provide for your loved ones in a worst-case scenario. Creating a Last Will and a Living Will can also offer much-needed protection and security, whether you’re designating a healthcare proxy to help you care for yourself or a guardian who can step in and care for your children.

So let’s ask that question one more time: Do you have a will?

If not, consider it might be well past time to make one.

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About Nicole Dieker

Nicole Dieker has been a full-time freelance writer since 2012, with a focus on personal finance and habit formation. In addition to Haven Life, her work regularly appears at Lifehacker, Bankrate, CreditCards.com, and Vox. Dieker spent five years as a writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog where people had honest conversations about money, and is the author of Frugal and the Beast: And Other Financial Fairy Tales.

Read more by Nicole Dieker

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit: https://havenlife.com/plus.html

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