Let’s face it: nobody wants to think about a situation where they are unable to make decisions for themselves and need someone to make decisions for them. Incapacity due to illness, injury, or other unpredictable situations can happen to any of us, however. When a devastating event occurs, it is crucial to have steps in place that allow our family and friends to step in and do what is right for us.
In North Carolina, powers of attorney and health care powers of attorney exist to help people through life’s most challenging situations. Estate planning attorneys such as David E. Anderson, PLLC, are here to help guide you through the process.
What is a Power of Attorney Under North Carolina Law?
A power of attorney is a document allowing another person to act as your legal agent for a variety of purposes. A power of attorney (or “POA”) is an effective tool to transfer assets, authorize certain acts or services, or even sell property without you having to do so. A power of attorney can be used to authorize a spouse or family member to make certain crucial decisions on your behalf if you are out of the country, hospitalized, or incapacitated in some way. At the same time, powers of attorney can be used even if you are present and healthy but wish to allow someone else to act on your behalf.
There are two frequently used types of powers of attorney available in North Carolina:
- General powers of attorney: broad powers allow any agent authorized by you to do anything you could typically do – such as signing a lease, registering a vehicle, or selling a home.
- Special powers of attorney: the special (or limited) power of attorney authorizes an agent to act on your behalf in a specific capacity. For example, they might be authorized to sign documents at a real estate closing but not to make bank transfers or sell a property.
Powers of attorney can be incredibly useful in many situations but also have the potential for abuse, so they should only be used when needed. Before making any commitments on power of attorney decisions, you want to discuss potential options and outcomes not only with the people you might name as agents but with an estate planning attorney that has a wealth of knowledge and experience in this particular area.
Power of attorney documents in North Carolina must be signed in the presence of two witnesses and a notary, which the law firm of David E. Anderson, PLLC, can always assist you with.
What is a Health Care Power of Attorney in North Carolina?
North Carolina law allows for the creation of a health care power of attorney (often referred to as an “advance directive.” This is a document used when medical decisions must be made, but you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to make those decisions for yourself.
For example, your healthcare agent can make decisions regarding surgical procedures, life support, intubation, blood transfusions, amputation, mental health treatment, and other critical medical options in an emergency.
In urgent situations, medical providers want to know who is authorized to make decisions for an incapacitated patient. Through a healthcare power of attorney, or advance directive, your wishes can be spelled out for providers that need to act quickly.
A health care agent through an advance directive in North Carolina can be anyone over 18 years old that you trust to make medical decisions, including decisions on life-saving procedures. For these reasons, you want to be selective in who you choose and consult with a trusted North Carolina estate planning attorney before finalizing your decisions.
What Happens if You Do Not Have a Power of Attorney or Advance Directive for Health Care?
Suppose you do not have a power of attorney established when a need arises to transfer property, release funds, or make other necessary decisions. In that case, a simple matter can become exceedingly complex. Your family might need to petition the probate court for a guardianship over your affairs in the event you are physically or mentally incapacitated. Unless a friend or family member shares a joint account or co-ownership of property, those items can sit frozen as a painstaking process unfolds.
While there are options to handle property and business affairs when a person cannot do so themselves, the best option is preparation in advance.
The same is true in a healthcare emergency. Without an advance directive or health care power of attorney in place, doctors and nurses are left scrambling to determine the best options for a struggling patient. They will have to spend valuable time locating family or friends to find out what course of treatment you would prefer. Bound by ethical duties and legal limitations, medical providers may be required to pursue treatments you might not have authorized if given a choice. An advance directive spells out your concerns and wishes and helps your healthcare provider in the process.
The Estate Planning Team at David E. Anderson, PLLC, Can Give You Peace of Mind Through Proper Planning with Powers of Attorney and Advance Directives
Planning for life’s emergencies is challenging for anybody, but more significant challenges can arise without proper planning. Meeting with an experienced estate planning attorney is the best way to start a process that can ultimately be rewarding for you and your family. Our compassionate North Carolina estate planning attorney at David E. Anderson, PLLC, can discuss all options available to you and create Powers of Attorney documents that work for you and your family. To learn more, feel free to call us today at 910-889-1750.