Most of us take for granted our ability to make decisions for ourselves. After all, over the course of a single day you make hundreds of minor and major decisions relating to your own life if you stop and think about it. You are also accustomed to making healthcare related decisions for yourself and you probably assume you will always be able to make those decisions. What happens, however, if you are in a position where you are unable to make your own healthcare decisions? Is there someone specific you would want to make decisions for you? You may also have very strong opinions about end of life medical treatment that you want honored by healthcare personnel at the end of your own life. Once again though, what happens if you are unable to convey those opinions when the time comes? Fortunately, both of these dilemmas can be resolved by executing an Advance Directive. While it is always best to consult with your North Carolina estate planning attorney about specific questions you may have relating to your estate plan, you may also find it beneficial to learn more about how an Advance Directive works and how it might fit into your estate plan.
North Carolina Advance Directive
An Advance Directive is a legal document that allows you to make important decisions relating to your own healthcare and treatment ahead of time so that if you are ever in a position where you cannot express your wishes they are already reduced to writing in the form of a legally binding document. Each individual state decides which advance directives, if any, it will recognize. Each state also decides when an advance directive becomes applicable and what language must be used in the document for it to be valid. The State of North Carolina recognizes two types of Advance Directive – a North Carolina Health Care Power of Attorney and a North Carolina Advance Directive for a Natural Death.
The North Carolina Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to name someone, referred to as your “Agent”, to make decisions about your health care, including decisions about life-prolonging measures, if you can no longer make them for yourself. The authority you grant to your Agent under this document applies anytime a physician determines you are unable to make your own decisions, not only at the end of your life.
A North Carolina Advance Directive for a Natural Death is what most people refer to as a “Living Will.” With this document, you are able to state your wishes regarding the withholding and withdrawing of life-prolonging measures in the event that you can no longer make your own health care decisions and you are terminally ill, permanently unconscious, or suffer from advance dementia or other irreversible loss of cognitive ability. Put simply, this document ensures that you will die a natural death when the time comes. When you execute the document, you will decide when it becomes applicable be choosing any combination, or all, of the following options:
- I have an incurable or irreversible condition that will result in my death within a relatively short period of time.
- I become unconscious and my health care providers determine that, to a high degree of medical certainty, I will never regain my consciousness.
- I suffer from advanced dementia or any other condition which results in the substantial loss of my cognitive ability and my health care providers determine that, to a high degree of medical certainty, this loss is not reversible you have one of the conditions that you indicate should trigger your declaration.
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns relating to a North Carolina Advance Directive, contact an experienced North Carolina estate planning attorney at The Law Offices of Cheryl David by calling 336-547-9999 to schedule an appointment.