In addition to a will, your estate plan should contain documents called “advanced directives.”
These are written instructions, authorized under South Carolina law, that express your wishes if you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated. They tell your medical providers and family members what medical care and intervention you want (or don’t want) if you become incapacitated.
Types of South Carolina Advanced Directives Related to Medical Care
Different types of advance directives may be appropriate to your situation.
Health Care Power of Attorney: This document appoints another person to be your authorized agent to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot. They are entitled to use their own judgment to authorize or refuse medical procedures and care on your behalf. Only appoint someone to this position you trust to make decisions in your best interest in situations that may be highly emotional and stressful.
You can appoint an individual such as your spouse or child who has an ongoing, continuous interest in your medical care as a general Health Care Power of Attorney. You can also appoint a temporary Health Care Power of Attorney for a limited period or related to a specific issue, like a scheduled surgery. This can be appropriate in situations where the person who is your general appointee cannot perform their role expediently (such as during an overseas deployment). In both cases, you can also name a “backup” agent to act on your behalf if your primary choice cannot or chooses not to do so.
Living Will: South Carolina’s Death with Dignity Act allows every competent adult to express their wishes regarding the use or withholding of life-sustaining procedures if they become permanently incapacitated or terminally ill. A Living Will allows you to specify in advance how far your medical care team should go to attempt to keep you alive if you are not expected to recover from your condition and unable to express your wishes about your care.
The South Carolina Department of Mental Health encourages everyone to prepare one or both of these documents. They help you express your wishes to your loved ones in the most difficult and frightening situations and provide unambiguous guidance to your medical providers.
Non-Medical Powers of Attorney
Powers of attorney can also be used for other non-medical situations. These documents allow you to appoint someone as your agent to step into your shoes and act with all your authority to sign contracts, conduct financial business, and handle other legal matters. These can be especially helpful for enabling a child or spouse to handle financial matters for an aging or mentally deteriorating individual.
Non-medical powers of attorney can be general or limited in scope. A general power of attorney allows your agent to act as you for any legal purpose. A limited power of attorney delegates that power for a specific, discrete purpose, such as selling a car or managing a bank account. You may wish to include a general power of attorney as part of your overall estate plan to take effect if you are temporarily or permanently incapacitated. This would allow your named representative to ensure your bills are paid and other matters are taken care of if you cannot.
Creating a Comprehensive Estate Plan to Protect Your Family’s Future
Advance directives are an important part of your overall family estate plan, but they are only a single piece of the larger puzzle. A comprehensive estate plan helps protect your family through situational crises like a healthcare situation, and provides future protection for many years to come through the ups and downs of ordinary life.
An experienced family law professional can help you craft a legacy estate plan that fits your family’s unique needs and help guide you through potentially difficult conversations with your loved ones. The compassionate, family-oriented lawyers at Indigo Family Law will help you prepare an entire estate plan of advance directives, which may also include a Will, trusts, and other estate documents. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.