What is a North Carolina living will?

A North Carolina living will is a written legal document that indicates your desire to withhold or withdraw certain medical care based on your health circumstances. In a North Carolina living will typically contains the following language:

“I _______________ have the primary right under North Carolina law to make my own decisions concerning treatment that might unduly prolong the dying process. By this declaration, I express to my physician, family, and friends my intent. If I should have a terminal condition it is my desire that my dying not be prolonged by administrative of death-prolonging procedures. If my condition is terminal and I am unable to participate in decisions regarding my medical treatment, I direct my attending physician to withhold or withdraw medical procedures that merely prolong the dying process and are not necessary to my comfort or to alleviate pain. It is not my intent to authorize affirmative deliberate acts or omissions to shorten my life, rather it is only my intent to permit the natural process of dying.”

How is a North Carolina living will made?

Anyone who is competent and 18 years of age or older in North Carolina can make this document by signing and dating a statement like that above, either typed or handwritten, before two witnesses. The witnesses must be at least 18 years of age and in order to avoid legal issues should not be related to the person signing the declaration, a beneficiary of his or her estate, or financially responsible for his or her medical care. Consider that while it is important to prepare an North Carolina living will before any hospitalization or impending surgery you should avoid deciding the terms of your will in a short period of time.

What are the limitations of a North Carolina living will?

North Carolina law provides significant limitations to the scope of this document. Terms such as “death-prolonging procedure” and “terminal condition” are used to specify the circumstances to which a living will applies. Both of these terms are related to conditions where death will occur within a short period of time if additional treatment is not provided. A North Carolina living will is intended only to avoid treatment when death is imminent and treatment ineffectively avoids or significantly delays death. Also, North Carolina statutes prohibit a living will from withholding or withdrawing artificially supplied nutrition and hydration, including sustenance supplied through a feeding tube or intravenously.

What are the alternatives to a North Carolina living will?

In North Carolina, if you would like to provide health care instructions beyond the scope of a living will you may instead create a North Carolina health care advance directive. A  North Carolina advance directive allows you to provide instruction regarding the degree of medical care you would like to receive in particular circumstances when you are unable to refuse treatment yourself. While a competent patient may refuse treatment for himself, an incompetent person may rely on a North Carolina advance directive in order to ensure that his wishes are carried out. Recently, North Carolina courts have provided people the opportunity to exceed the limitations of living will statutes in North Carolina advance directives. Advance directives may include instructions to withhold or withdraw artificially supplied nutrition and hydration or other treatment and machinery, which may maintain a patient in a persistent vegetative state. Additionally, North Carolina advance directives do not need to be composed in any standard form and may include procedures that may or may not be used, as well as the effective time frames. However, like living wills, advance directives should be signed, dated, and witnessed.

Where should I store my North Carolina living will?

It is important to ensure that this document is easily accessible as they may be needed at a moment’s notice. While some people ensure that they constantly have a copy of your living will or advance directive, you should additionally provide your physician with a copy your living will or advance directive. This not only notifies the physician of your desires in the case of an emergency but additionally provides you with the opportunity to discuss your medical options. You should also provide a copy to your attorney-in-fact in the case of your incapacity. Additionally, if you are hospitalized it is important to ensure that a copy has been included with your medical records. It is wise to sign multiple copies of your living will or advance directive.

How do I Revoke a North Carolina living will?

A North Carolina living will may be easily revoked or cancelled. Under North Carolina law, either an oral or written statement may revoke your wishes. It is best to gather all copies of your will and destroy all copies to prevent any confusion. Many state statutes require that a note of revocation of the living will be placed in your medical records. For more information regarding estate planning, check out our blog.