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A Guide to Estate Planning and Health Care in North Carolina

When you think about estate planning, the first thing that comes to mind is probably writing a will to decide who gets what. Preparing your assets and property for distribution to your heirs is one of the most important aspects of the estate planning process. Unfortunately, too many people stop there—failing to put the proper structure in place to protect themselves in the event of incapacity.

A comprehensive estate plan should prepare for the possibility of incapacity. While it can be uncomfortable to think about, it is an essential part of the estate planning process. In this article, our North Carolina estate planning lawyers provide an overview of the estate planning tools you can use to protect your health, well-being, and your autonomy.

Health Care and Your Estate Plan

There may come a day when you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to express your own wishes regarding medical care. A well-engineered estate plan should ensure that you are properly protected no matter what might happen in the future. Here are three key health-related components of a comprehensive estate plan in North Carolina:

  • Health Care Power of Attorney: By granting a trusted person your health Care power of attorney, you are giving them the authority to act as a surrogate decision maker in the event that you cannot make your own medical decisions. A spouse, an adult child, or another trusted loved one can act as a decision-maker on your behalf. Health care power of attorney makes this as smooth as possible. If you have any questions about setting up a health care POA in North Carolina, contact our Charlotte estate planning lawyers for help.
  • Living Will (Medical Directives): Do you have specific desires regarding end-of-life care? If so, it is highly recommended that you draft a living will and/or advance medical directives. These legally binding estate planning documents are used to clarify your wishes. Your desires regarding end-of-life care will be fully respected, even if you are not in a position to express them. If you have any questions about setting up a living will or medical directive in North Carolina, call our Charlotte estate planning attorney for guidance and support.
  • A HIPAA Medical Release: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a complicated federal statute that strictly protects your health-related information. It puts responsibilities on both medical providers and insurance companies. The potential problem is that HIPAA protections are so strong, in some cases, people have trouble accessing the sensitive medical information of a vulnerable family member. A HIPAA release is a simple estate planning document that fixes that problem. You can give the person with your health care POA (and other trusted loved ones) the authority to get your medical information should you become incapacitated.

It is essential that you review and update your estate plan on a regular basis. An outdated estate plan can cause problems, especially in the area of health care. As an example, imagine that you granted your health care power of attorney to a person who is no longer able or willing to fulfill the responsibilities.You need to make an immediate revision to your estate plan.

Preparing Your Finances for Future Medical / Health Care Needs

Finally, health care planning also involves some financial long term care planning. It is possible that you (or a loved one) will require some period of ongoing long term care, potentially even full-time nursing home care. The cost of long term care in North Carolina is notoriously expensive. The good news is that there are steps you can take ahead of time to preserve your eligibility for Medicaid’s long-term care coverage.

You do not necessarily have to drain your life savings for long term care coverage. If you have any questions about long term care planning, consult with an experienced North Carolina estate planning attorney. A lawyer will be able to help you devise a plan that best protects and preserves your assets for your children, grandchildren, and/or other beneficiaries.

Get Help From a Top-Rated Charlotte, NC Estate Planning Lawyer

At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, our North Carolina will and estate attorneys represent clients with honesty, personal attention, and professional skill. If you have questions about estate planning and medical care, we are ready to get you answers. Contact us today for a fully confidential case evaluation. We provide estate planning services throughout North Carolina, including in Union County, Gaston County, Mecklenburg County, Rutherford County, Anson County, and Richmond County.