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Do I need a heath care proxy or living will?

It's important for adults of all ages to draft advanced directives — sometimes called living wills — to formally declare their preference for end-of-life medical care. These directives form the blueprint for your caregivers and health care providers to ensure that you receive the type of care you wish at the end of your life.

Advanced directives can be part of your overall estate planning documents. Some people choose to select separate legal and health care powers of attorney to avoid any perceived conflicts of interest should the person they choose be an heir or beneficiary of the estate.

The person selected as health care power of attorney will make decisions about the extent, type and duration of treatment an ill or injured person will receive when the patient, due to mental or physical infirmities, is no longer capable of making those decisions.

Your health care proxy should meet all the requirements of the state of North Carolina to fill that role. The person you choose cannot be involved with patient care or be your treating physician. He or she must also be able and willing to advocate for your wishes if necessary. As such, anyone who is uncomfortable discussing or making health care decisions would not be a good choice.

Because accidents and illnesses can blindside even healthy young men and women, it's never too early for adults to address these end-of-life issues. If you are ready to get your legal and medical ducks in line and be prepared for any eventuality, consulting with an estate administration attorney is a good first step to take.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "Living wills and advance directives for medical decisions," accessed June 17, 2016

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