A Living Will is also known as an Advance Directive For A Natural Death. It is a document that expresses what forms of medical treatment you want to receive when you face certain terminal medical conditions.
In years past, Living Wills were very short. You had to initial a line to say whether you want to be kept alive if you are in terminal decline.
Most people refer to this as “pulling the plug.” Several years ago, our Raleigh law firm decided to expand the language in our Living Wills. We wanted to include various medical conditions and various treatment options. In other words, a client can now customize her Living Will to meet their end-of-life wishes.
What Conditions Make a Living Will Effective?
There are three main medical conditions that cause a Living Will to become effective. They are as follows:
- When you develop an incurable or irreversible medical condition that will result in your death within a short period of time.
- When you become unconscious and your health care providers examine you, only if they determine they can be very certain you will never regain consciousness.
- When you suffer from advanced dementia or any other condition which results in the substantial loss of your cognitive ability, and your healthcare providers determine that, to a high degree of medical certainty, this loss is not reversible.
When signing your Living Will, you can determine if you want your life extended if you have one of the foregoing medical conditions.
There is another important aspect of your Living Will. It is that you can determine whether you want artificial hydration or artificial nutrition to remain in place if it will extend your life. In other words, do you want an IV or a feeding tube? This can often be a difficult decision for family members to make for you. It is best if you put your wishes in writing while you still have the ability to make the decisions yourself.
Often, your family members do not know your wishes. If not, you will leave them with the enormous burden of making decisions for you. We always suggest putting your wishes in writing. You can do this through the execution of a Living Will, no matter what your wishes. Your wishes cannot be “right” or “wrong.” They are your wishes, which your family needs to know.
Common Living Will and Advance Directive Questions
What Are the Requirements for Making a Will in North Carolina?
A Living Will in NC is a legal document that you must sign in the presence of two witnesses. These witnesses must believe the declarant to be of sound mind. You cannot be related to them by blood or marriage. They cannot be your physician or similar. You must fill out an Advance Directive form in accordance with US Statute 90-320.
You must be 18 years old or over to make a Living Will. If you are in imminent peril of death, you can make a nuncupative or spoken will. This must be in front of two competent witnesses. In your will, you must nominate a healthcare agent. They can make decisions on your behalf if you cannot make your own decisions.
It is a good idea to type the will on a computer and print it off. You must have the mental capacity to understand the impact and effect it will have. You must have made the will without pressure from anyone else. It must be your decision alone.
How Do I Sign My North Carolina Will?
You must sign a North Carolina will in your own handwriting in front of two witnesses. Those two witnesses must then sign the will in front of you. If you are receiving mental health treatment, then health care professionals will need to declare you are of sound mind to sign.
Do I Need to Have My Will Notarized?
You do not have to notarize your will for it to follow North Carolina law. You can choose to make it self-proving, which will need to have it notarized. If it is not notarized, the court will have to contact your two witnesses before any medical orders can be given.
Should My Will Name an Executor?
In North Carolina, your will should name an executor. They will be responsible for ensuring your will is carried out. If you do not name one then the courts will employ someone for this purpose.
Can I Revoke or Change My Will?
The state of North Carolina does allow you to revoke your will. You can do it in several ways. The most simple of these is to burn, tear, or otherwise destroy the will with the intention of it being revoked. You can also give someone else permission to do this on your behalf. Thirdly, you could make a new will that states it revokes the old one.
If you are married and get divorced, anything in your will that relates to your spouse is revoked. This is unless you state in the will that divorce does not affect what your spouse will receive.
Making changes to your will can be a complex process. This means it is often best to revoke your will and start a new one if you want to make changes. If you want to make a simple change, you can add an amendment.
Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?
North Carolina does not currently recognize digital wills. They must be in hard copy and signed in front of witnesses. Some states do offer this service and others are considering it. North Carolina may accept digital wills in the future.
Who Determines if I Receive Life-Prolonging Medical Treatment if I Don’t Have a Living Will in North Carolina?
If you do not have a Living Will in North Carolina, your closest living relative will make a decision on life-prolonging measures. If you have not made advance care planning, it will be your spouse, parent, or adult child who will make the decision. It will not be left to medical professionals.
People Often Ask Us if They Really Need a Living Will
The answer is “yes,” even if you think your family members know your wishes. Many clients I talk to remember the case involving Terri Schiavo. She was the Florida woman who had a feeding tube but was considered medically brain dead. Ms. Schiavo’s family battled in court over removing the feeding tube. One side of her family said she wanted the feeding tube and the other side said she did not want the feeding tube. This turned into a traumatic case for all her family and much of the United States. We all watched her end of life struggles play out in a courtroom and on television. A Living Will could have avoided this battle among Ms. Schiavo’s family.
Speak to a Will and Estate Lawyer in Raleigh
If our attorneys can help with any of your estate planning needs, then please do not hesitate to call. We can promise you that the cost of obtaining a Will is some of the best money ever spent. You owe it to your family. Call 919-615-2473 or request a case review today.
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