We always hope that we’ll be able to make the important decisions about our lives and our deaths. But the truth is, the only way we can plan for the inevitable is to actually plan for it.
By making a living will, you not only ensure that your wishes will be carried out, you remove the burden of decision from family members who would not want to make those choices, from medical doctors and from the state.
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A living will enables you to legally set your preferences regarding your medical treatment in the event that you become ill or incapacitated and are unable to communicate your wishes. It also allows you to direct a doctor to withhold life support and artificial nutrition if you are in a state of terminal or incurable illness or a persistent vegetative state.
Why should you create a living will?
Many people create living wills for two reasons: to specify their wishes so they will be carried out as they want, and to remove the burden of decision from loved ones.
Often, however, there are conditions that make the creation of a living will a more pressing event, such as:
As long as your living will is written, signed and notarized while you are conscious and of sound mind, your family members and physicians must follow your wishes.
What does a living will do?
A living will allows you to make decisions now regarding:
After drawing up a living will with the help of an estate planning attorney, you must sign it in front of a notary and two witnesses. After that, you can make multiple copies of the document and leave them with your spouse or partner, children, friends and other family members who would be contacted if you were in a serious medical condition. You can also leave copies with your doctors.
In this manner, if the situation necessitates, any doctor who receives a copy of your legally executed living will must follow your wishes.
What doesn’t a living will do?
Prevent you from changing your mind
If you are conscious and able to request life support, artificial nutrition or hydration, a living will doesn’t remove your right to do so—no matter what. At any time, you can also revoke your living will or draft a new one.
Your living will only handles critical decisions in the event that you cannot consciously handle them yourself—so if you can make the conscious decision to change your mind, you may always do so no matter how you wrote your living will.
Appoint someone else to make decisions regarding your health
A living will is not the document that appoints another person to make decisions about your health if and when you are unable to communicate your wishes. The document that appoints a health care agent is called a Health Care Power of Attorney.
Relieve you from paying your medical bills
Living wills allow you to make decisions for yourself regarding your own medical treatment—treatment you still have to pay for. Just because you’re making the decisions ahead of time doesn’t mean anyone else is required to pay the bill. You are still primarily responsible for the payment of your medical expenses.
The attorneys at Wilson, Reives & Silverman have extensive knowledge of North Carolina living wills, and are here to provide you with trusted, effective legal counsel.