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Why You Need to Consider Advance Directives in Estate Planning

Estate planning in North Carolina is essential for people of all ages. While many people tend to think about estate planning as something you do when you get older, or after you have children, everybody can benefit from estate planning regardless of your age or income level. Although many people in North Carolina think about estate planning as a process that involves creating a will and, in some cases, one or more trusts, there is much more to estate planning. Certainly, estate planning can involve the creation of a will or a trust, but estate planning should also involve the development of advance directives.

Advance directives are documents that allow you to make plans and decisions about your health care in the event that you become incapacitated and are unable to do so yourself. Indeed, as Duke Health explains, “if you are 18 or older, and mentally competent, then you have the right to make decisions about your medical care,” and advance directives are the legal forms that allow you to make those decisions. The following is some helpful information about advance directives and why they should be an integral part of your estate planning process with your Raleigh estate planning attorney.

Living Wills Allow You to Clarify Your Wishes About Medical Care

A living will, which is also known in some circumstances as a declaration of a desire for a natural death under North Carolina law, allows you to clarify what kinds of life-saving procedures you do not want to have in the event that you become incapacitated. For example, in a living will, you can clarify that you do not wish to be provided with a feeding tube in the event that you become incapacitated, or that you do not want to be connected to any type of artificial lifesaving of life-prolonging equipment that would prolong your life.

According to the statute, North Carolina law recognizes that an individual’s rights include the right to a natural death and that a patient has the fundamental right to control the decisions relating to the patient’s own medical care, including the decision to have life-prolonging measures withheld in the case of a terminal condition.

Advance Instruction for Mental Health Treatment Can Outline Your Preferences

As the North Carolina Secretary of State’s website explains, an advance instruction for mental health treatment is another type of advance health care directive that “makes a declaration of instructions, information, and preferences regarding your mental health treatment.” It can provide specific instructions regarding your consent to receive certain types of mental health treatment, or to refuse certain types of mental health treatment.

This document would be used in situations where you are rendered incapacitated and cannot make the decision for yourself. This kind of document can be used in situations where a patient becomes physically and mentally incapacitated due to an accident or another traumatic event, or a situation in which an older adult becomes mentally incapacitated due to dementia, for example.

Health Care Power of Attorney

A health care power of attorney can be an extremely important document to ensure that you get the medical care you want by naming another person as a representative who can make those decisions for you if you become unable to do so yourself. While a living will and an advance instruction for mental health treatment can outline your wishes in certain situations, those documents likely cannot anticipate every medical situation that may arise. By naming another person to make health care decisions for you, you can be certain that someone you trust is making those decisions on your behalf with your own wishes in mind.

Contact a North Carolina Estate Planning Lawyer

Do you have questions about advance health care directives and estate planning? A North Carolina estate planning attorney can help. Contact Howard, Stallings, From, Atkins, Angell & Davis, P.A. today. We serve clients throughout Raleigh and New Bern.

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