It could be said that end of life planning contains three distinct components: the physical, the financial, and the philosophical. You can state your wishes concerning these matters by drawing up three different wills.
When most people hear the term “will” as it applies to estate planning they are going to think about the standard will that provides instructions for the distribution of the property of the deceased. We have all heard the term “last will and testament.” The distinction between the two is that traditionally the “will” referred to the transfer of real property, and the “testament” covered the distribution of personal property. These days the document is usually referred to as a will and this distinction is not required.
A living will is a document that estate planning attorneys recommend so that the health care wishes of their clients will be honored in the event of their incapacity. You can be as specific or general as you want to be when you are drawing up your living will, but the matter of life support systems and whether or not you approve of their use is often at the core of a living will. Matters of pain control and how and where you would like to be treated can also be addressed in your living will.
The ethical will is something that dates back to biblical times, and it is a document that is intended to pass along spiritual, moral and ethical beliefs and advice. Drawing up an ethical will is going to enable your heirs and future generations to draw from your wisdom and give them an idea of how you feel the assets that you are passing along should be handled. At the same time, externalizing your own perspective via the creation of an ethical will is a cathartic act that has a positive psychological impact on you as the author of the document.