What is a living will?

A living will—a term interchangeable with the phrase advance directive—is a written legal document that allows the creator to outline her wishes for an end-of-life medical decision in three different scenarios. If you’re planning your estate, it’s important you understand what a living will can do, why you might also consider creating a health care power of attorney document, and how an attorney can help you draft each.

Understanding the Living Will

In North Carolina, a living will—not to be confused with a last will and testament, which is used to leave property to beneficiaries—is also known as an advance directive for a natural death and tells your loved ones whether or not to prolong your life in certain events, including:

  • Your life will end shortly due to a terminal condition.
  • You become unconscious, and doctors conclude that you will not become conscious again.
  • You lose significant cognitive ability—due to dementia, for example—and will not be able to regain it.

Without a living will, medical professionals and loved ones could be left to speculate what you may have wanted. Occasionally, wrong guesses can lead to legal disputes and create hard feelings between family members.

In addition, your living will can make clear whether you will allow an autopsy, where you may want to donate your remains, and whether you’d like to be cremated.

A Living Will Complements a Power of Attorney

It’s important to consider drafting a power of attorney document that can work in tandem with your living will. With a health care power of attorney, you appoint someone you trust to make health care decisions for you at the end of your life, in the event you become incapacitated. Additionally, it’s possible to include both a living will and a health care power of attorney in the same document, or both may be drafted as separate documents.

Enlist Trustworthy Estate Planning Help

A complete estate plan is comprised of many legal documents, and a living will is an essential piece of that plan. If you’d like help drafting documents and understanding which estate-planning tools may best fit your situation, contact the experienced attorneys of Pender Estate. You can reach out to us today by filling out the online contact form on our website.