Let’s face it – no one enjoys thinking about what will happen to their wife, husband, children, or even pets, in the event they pass away or become medically incapacitated.

However, it is important to ensure that, while you are still healthy, you have an all-encompassing estate plan that protects your family and any other designated beneficiaries in the event you are unable to provide for them.

Creating advance directives is an important step in ensuring your wishes are met in the event that you are unable to make decisions for yourself.

What Are Advance Directives?

An advance directive is a legal document that outlines your medical decisions in the event you are deemed incapable of making your health own decisions.

As much as we hate to envision it, certain events may make it impossible for us to make our own medical decisions. What would you want if you were on life support? What if you are in a coma and a doctor determines that you will not awake? Do you want your life prolonged by machine or do you want to be resuscitated? 

Your family will likely do whatever it takes to keep you alive for as long as possible, even if it will drastically impact your quality of life. Advance directives allow the doctors to abide by your wishes and ensure that you are ultimately in control of the decisions being made on your behalf.

Why Are Advance Directives Important

Advance directives provide guidance to medical professionals regarding your health. They are incredibly important in allowing doctors to make objective decisions that are in your best interest from a medical certainty. 

In North Carolina, there are two types of advance directives. The first is a living will, and the second is the Health Care Power of Attorney.

Living Will

A “living will” is a type of advance directive that guides your family and healthcare team through the medical treatment you wish to receive if you are unable to communicate your own wishes. A living will is not a will, but rather, a document that speaks for you when you are unable to speak for yourself.

A living will is used when making decisions about life-sustaining medical treatment in a narrow set of circumstances, including when you are terminally ill and close to death, when you are permanently unconscious, and when you suffer from a substantial loss of cognitive ability, such as dementia.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

A Health Care Power of Attorney, on the other hand, is broader and allows you to appoint another person to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to make them for yourself. This is often a spouse, a child, a close family member or a guardian. In contrast to the living will, which relates only to the termination of life-prolonging treatment, the Health Care Power of Attorney applies to all medical decisions. The healthcare agent you designate through your healthcare power of attorney will present your living will document to your medical provider.

Consult A North Carolina Estate Planning Attorney

Estate planning will be many individuals’ only interaction with an attorney and may be considered to be the most important. If you would like to consult one of our North Carolina estate planning attorneys, please contact us. We will work with you to create an estate plan that ensures your loved ones are taken care of in the event of your medical incapacity.