Health care decisions are a very personal thing for most people, and the ability to make those decisions on our own is important. Although the aim is to be able to do that throughout our lives, the unfortunate truth is that a lot of us will encounter a situation in life where we are incapacitated or otherwise unable to make our own medical decisions.
If you find yourself in that situation, who would you want to make decisions on your behalf? What care would you want to receive? These are just a few of the questions that can be answered with Advance Medical Directives.
Advance Medical Directives are a critical component of your Estate Planning, and one of our Estate Planning attorneys can help you craft these directives so you can make your wishes known in the event you can’t communicate them in person.
What Is An Advance Medical Directive?
Advance Medical Directives are simply a collection of documents that communicate your treatment preferences, as well as who you’d like to make medical decisions on your behalf, if you’re unable to make those decisions on your own.
North Carolina generally has four different categories of Advance Medical Directives: Living Wills, Powers of Attorney, Health Care Proxies, and a Declaration of an Anatomical Gift (more commonly known as organ donation).
How Does Each Type Work?
A Living Will allows you to specify what types of medical care you want if you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to communicate those decisions. Would you want the medical team to take all necessary measures to extend your life? What if your condition was defined as terminal and extending your life would only result in more suffering? These details and more are specified in a Living Will.
Powers Of Attorney
A Durable Power Of Attorney (DPOA) lets you designate someone to execute legal documents on your behalf if you’re unable to do it on your own. You can even split it up in more granular fashion, such as having one person to handle health care documents, one to handle financial documents, etc. In North Carolina, the only requirements are that the person is competent, 18 years old or older, and is not the doctor or healthcare professional who is handling your care.
Health Care Proxy
A Health Care Proxy allows you to designate a person to make health care decisions on your behalf if you’re incapacitated or otherwise unable to make these decisions on your own. They’re essentially a stand-in for you and are able to request or decline treatments the same as you would be able to in that situation.
Declaration Of An Anatomical Gift
More commonly known as organ donation, the Declaration Of An Anatomical Gift allows you to state your preferences around organ donation. You can even be more granular in detail if you want to donate certain organs for certain purposes, or even your entire body for study and research after your death.
The NC Advance Health Care Directive Registry
The NC Secretary of State provides a service to North Carolinians to file your advance directives, known as the North Carolina Advance Health Care Directive Registry. As a safe place to store your directives, they will create a profile for you, and send you registry cards to be able to access your directives online.
The registry is not required for individuals who have Advance Medical Directives, but can be an additional layer of security knowing that your documents are securely stored and accessible in case you end up in a situation where they’re needed. Even if you use the registry, we recommend that you make sure that your family and medical professionals are aware of your documents and where they are stored.
In addition, the Registry can not provide legal advice, so it’s important to discuss the details and creation of these documents with your Estate Planning attorney.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is A Living Will Different Than A Living Trust Or Normal Will?
Although they sound similar and have some similarities, Living Wills, Trusts, and Wills are each unique documents and each have different purposes in Estate Planning.
A Living Trust is a structure where certain assets are transferred to a Trustee while you are still alive. The Trustee manages assets on your behalf – there are also multiple types – Revocable Living Trusts and Irrevocable Living Trusts.
A Will outlines what should be done with your Estate after your death, and allows you to specify where certain assets within that estate are distributed. A Will also specifies an Executor to carry out your wishes after your passing.
Can I Change My Mind In The Future?
The one constant about life is that there are always changes. If you find in the future that you need to make changes to your Advance Directives, you can reach out to our team to help update your documents.
In addition, if you’re using the NC Advance Health Care Directive Registry to file your documentation, you can revoke any filings by filling out and submitting their Removal Form on the NC Secretary of State website and they will remove the records.
Contact Our North Carolina Estate Planning Team
Consulting with an experienced Estate Planning attorney ensures that your Advance Medical Directives accomplish what you want to have in place in the event you’re incapacitated or unable to make decisions around your health care. The team at McCollum Law is here and ready to help you craft your Advance Medical Directives as a part of your larger Estate Plan. Call us today or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation!