Do I Need a Living Will in North Carolina?

At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, our clients often wonder whether they need to create a living will. In North Carolina, a living will is also known as an advance directive for a natural death. Living wills are typically short and require you to initial lines that indicate whether you would like to be kept alive through heroic measures if you are incapacitated due to an injury or illness. Currently, most people choose to customize their living wills to address more treatment options and scenarios. Thinking about the possibility of becoming incapacitated can be difficult. However, everyone over the age of 18 benefits from taking the time to create a living will.

The Purpose of Creating a Living Will

If you become incapacitated due to age or illness, and you do not have a living will in place, your loved ones will have to make difficult decisions for you. Your doctors will ask your loved ones to decide whether you should have life-sustaining end-of-life care and what type of medical treatments you would like to receive. When you create a living well, you address all of your health care preferences upfront so your loved ones can rest assured that you are receiving the type of healthcare you want in a crisis medical situation. Your family members will be able to focus on spending time with you and caring for you, and you can rest easier knowing that your end-of-life decisions will be followed.

When Does a Living Will Become Effective?

The conditions of a living will do not come into effect unless you are seriously injured and incapacitated. In other words, you will be able to make decisions for yourself until you are no longer able to do so. In North Carolina, three main medical scenarios cause your living will to become effective:

  • You have developed an incurable or irreversible medical condition that will cause your death within a relatively short time frame
  • You have become unconscious, and your healthcare provider decides that you will never regain consciousness to a high degree of medical certainty
  • You have advanced dementia or another type of condition that results in a substantial loss of your cognitive ability. In this scenario, your healthcare provider will need to decide with a high degree of medical certainty that the loss of your cognitive ability is not reversible.

You will decide whether you would like your life extended through aggressive medical intervention if you have one or more medical conditions mentioned above. In your living will, You will be able to decide in writing whether you would like artificial nutrition and artificial hydration to extend your life. In other words, would you like a feeding tube and an IV for hydration? Should you become severely incapacitated, it is often incredibly difficult for your loved ones to decide whether to remove artificial nutrition and hydration. Your loved ones will be emotionally upset due to your medical condition, and they may not know what to do without your living will.

Do You Need a Living Will?

We have helped many families in these types of scenarios. In some cases, when the patient has been declared medically brain dead, family members disagree on what they should do. Some family members may want to remove the feeding tube and hydration. Other family members may wish the patient to continue receiving life-saving nutrition and liquids.

Many of us remember the case of Terri Schiavo, who was declared medically brain dead. Her highly public legal case gained significant press attention after her husband decided that he would not like to keep her artificially alive. One way to avoid a traumatic scenario in which family members disagree is to create a living will that spells out your preferences should you become severely medically disabled.

Contact an Experienced Living WIll Lawyer Today

Whether you are young, middle-aged, or heading toward retirement, it is wise to create a living will. Regardless of your age, planning for your future is always important. Preparing a living will allow you to make thoughtful decisions about how your future health care needs will be met. Illness or tragic accidents can occur unexpectedly. At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, our estate planning lawyers have helped many Charlotte-area residents create comprehensive estate plans that include living wills. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation.