Making your wishes known now
A living will, also called an advance directive for a natural death, is very different from the will you make out to dispose of your assets. What we normally think of as a will is technically called a testamentary will, and it is not considered finalized until after your death. A living will, on the other hand, sets the terms for your medical care while you are still alive. The North Carolina Bar Association defines it as “a legal document in which you direct whether your life will be prolonged by medical procedures in any of three circumstances:
- You have an incurable or irreversible condition that will result in your death within a relatively short period of time.
- You become unconscious and your health care providers determine that, to a high degree of medical certainty, you will never regain consciousness.
- You suffer from advanced dementia or any other condition which results in substantial loss of your cognitive ability, and your health care providers determine that, to a high degree of medical certainty, the loss is not reversible.”
Many people want this, because they are afraid of spending their last days or weeks in agony while their doctors spend enormous resources to prolong their lives for a little more time.
An advance instruction for mental health treatment is something similar. It makes your wishes known regarding mental health treatment if you should ever need it in the future.
Choosing an agent
But it is not enough to set out a living will. You will need a health care power of attorney in order to appoint an agent to see that this will is enforced. You may choose a family member or close friend, but you can’t choose anyone who is being paid to provide you with medical care, as this would create a conflict of interest. You must make certain that this person understands your wishes. Above all, this must be someone you trust.
A health care power of attorney must be signed in the presence of two witnesses and a notary public. The witnesses can’t be related to you or your spouse, can’t have any claim against you or provide you with any kind of medical care, and must know that they are not your beneficiaries.
Help with living will and health care power of attorney in Gastonia
Although there are blank forms you can use to fill out living wills and powers of attorney, it is best to get professional advice on them. Robert C. Whitt is a Gastonia attorney, servicing the areas of Mount Holly, Charlotte, Gastonia and Gaston, Mecklenburg, Lincoln Counties and surrounding communities. He focuses on wills, trusts and other aspects of elder law. If you are thinking of making out your will or establishing a trust, call his office today.