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Is a living will the same thing as a traditional will in Florida?

On Behalf of | Jun 13, 2024 | Living Will, Wills |

Navigating estate planning in Florida can be complex. And, one question that often comes up is whether a living will is the same thing as a traditional will in Florida. Both are essential, but they serve unique purposes and come into play at different times.

Living will: a directive for health care decisions

A living will is not about distributing assets after death. Instead, the living will focuses on your life and your medical wishes when you become incapacitated, including your end-of-life care wishes. It takes effect while the individual is still alive but incapacitated, and it ensures that their healthcare preferences are respected.

Traditional will: distributing your legacy

A traditional will, or last will and testament, outlines how a person’s assets and estate will be distributed after their death. It can also designate guardians for minor children and provide instructions for pet care. In Florida, a traditional will must be written, signed by the testator (the person who owns the will) and witnessed by at least two individuals to be legally valid.

Key distinctions

The primary difference between the two types of wills is their timing and function. A living will takes effect during the individual’s lifetime under specific conditions, which is why it is called a “living” will, and it addresses healthcare decisions and preferences. In contrast, a traditional will is activated after death, and it guides the probate process and the distribution of assets.

Importance of both wills

Both types of wills are crucial for a comprehensive estate plan. A living will ensures your healthcare decisions are honored, and it alleviates loved ones from making difficult choices during stressful times. A traditional will provides clear instructions for the management and distribution of your estate. It reflects your wishes and potentially simplifies the legal process for your heirs.


While a living will and a traditional will might seem similar in name, they serve distinct roles in estate planning. Understanding these differences is vital to ensure your wishes are honored both in life and after death.