Will

There are many good reasons to have a will drafted for you. It is the only way to ensure that your legacy goes to the beneficiaries of your choosing. If you do not have a properly executed will, then your assets will be distributed by the court system according to the NC Intestate Succession Act. Sometimes the application of this act will lead to counterintuitive results, particularly for non-traditional families.

In addition to ensuring your legacy goes to your chosen beneficiaries, a will greatly expedites how quickly your beneficiaries will be able to receive your assets after your death.

A will may also minimize the risk of family conflicts that might occur if it is unclear how you wanted to distribute your assets. You can also use a will to put certain conditions on how your assets are used. For example, perhaps you would like your children or grandchildren to only use your assets for educational purposes. Or perhaps you have a beneficiary that has special needs and you would like to make special provisions. Specific language can be included in a will that addresses your unique situation and estate planning needs.

Durable Power of Attorney

The durable power of attorney document grants a designated person the power to handle your financial affairs. For example, your appointed power of attorney will be able to manage your bank account, liquidate assets, sign documents and perform other financial management tasks on your behalf. This power can be granted effective immediately upon signing the document or only upon the event of your mental incompetence or incapacity.

In the State of North Carolina, in order for a durable power of attorney to be effective after the principal is mentally incompetent, the document must be filed with the office of the Register of Deeds. In the unfortunate case where there is not a power of attorney filed prior to an individual becoming mentally incompetent, then a guardian must be appointed. This is accomplished through the court system by guardianship proceedings. During guardianship proceedings the debts, assets, and mental competence of the principal are examined in the courtroom.

Having a durable power of attorney saves your family the time, expense and emotional hardship of going through the court appointed guardianship process.

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Health Care Power of Attorney

The health care power of attorney functions similarly to the durable power of attorney but it pertains to health care decisions instead of financial ones. This document grants your chosen representative the power to make health care decisions on your behalf.

The health care power of attorney document, particularly when combined with an advanced directive, will grant your chosen representative to express your preferred end of life choices, such as the decision to end life support or request a, “do not resuscitate” order with a hospital or nursing home.

This document could take effect immediately or when you lack capacity. Lacking capacity usually means that either you can't understand the nature and consequences of the health care choices that are available to you or you are unable to communicate your own wishes.

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Advance Directives

What kind of medical care would you want if you were too ill to make your own medical decisions? Advanced directives also known as living wills are a type of legal document that defines your decisions about end-of-life medical care ahead of time.

This relatively simple document can prevent strife and confusion within your family and with your medical care provider when the need for a difficult end of life decision becomes necessary.

This document tells your family and your medical care providers whether you want any treatment in a wide range of specific circumstances, and if so, what type of treatment you would want to receive if you were dying or permanently unconscious. I strongly encourage everyone to do research and put serious thought into end-of-life issues.

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