• Patrick D. Newton is a North Carolina Board Certified Specialist in Estate Planning and Probate Law.

North Carolina Living Wills

Your Living Will is your statement of your wishes on whether to pull the plug if you are in an end-of-life situation. While the form does not appoint anyone to make decisions for you, you can allow your Health Care Agent under your Health Care Power of Attorney to “override” your Living Will.

    Living Will Prevails

    You can complete your Living Will to keep the decision to pull the plug just between you and your doctors. By picking this option, you are sparing your loved ones from making the decision to pull the plug.

    Health Care Agent Prevails

    Alternatively, your Living Will can be crafted to put the final decision whether to pull the plug in the hands of your Health Care Agent. Your Health Care Agent is the person you name in your Health Care Power of Attorney to make medical decisions for you if your are incapacitated. Typically, the Health Care Agent is a spouse, child, close relative, or friend. By picking this option, you are empowering your loved ones, and not your doctors, to make the call on whether to pull the plug.


Built into the NC Living Will is a strong statement of your desire to be kept comfortable, even if pain killing drugs might hasten your death.

When will the Living Will come into play

As long as your are conscious and competent, you will make your own decisions, no matter how ill you are. When you are not capable of communicating your own decisions, your Health Care Agent will begin making medical decisions for you. Your NC Living Will only comes into play if you are also in one (or more) the following additional conditions (which you select when completing your Living Will):

  • If you have an incurable or irreversible condition that will result in your death within a relatively short period of time;
  • If you become unconscious and your health care providers (i.e. doctors) determine that, to a high degree of medical certainty, you will never regain your consciousness; and/or
  • If you suffer from advanced dementia or any other condition which results in the substantial loss of your cognitive ability and your health care providers determine that, to a high degree of medical certainty, this loss is not reversible.

The language on the NC Living Will form is purposely vague. This is designed to automatically keep the form current with medical advances. The language also recognizes that the decision to pull the plug is, by definition, subjective.

Life Prolonging Measures

When (If?) you meet the criteria for your Living Will to be used, you are telling your doctors to withhold or discontinue life prolonging measures. This term is also purposely vague. In any case, you are not signing up for euthanasia, you are instructing your doctors to not use artificial means of keeping your body alive.

Legal Advice?

Many clients ask me how they should fill in their NC Living Will. I do not know. The decisions are so personal, all I can do is help someone understand the form. If you would like my help getting your Living Will in place, please call me at (828) 384-3700.

By: Patrick D. Newton

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