Importance of Advance Care Planning

Posted on September 21, 2017

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Reprinted with permission from the July 19, 2017 issue of The Link, Cheraw, SC

KAROLYN TREDEAU
Staff Reporter

Probate Judge Gail Ingram and attorney Cliff McBride of South Carolina Legal Services led a lunch-and-learn on advance care planning. The event was sponsored by Hospice of Chesterfield County and held at Northeastern Technical College in Cheraw.

Ingram began with a brief overview of the services Probate Court provides and stressed the importance of people having advance directives in place.

“When an advance directive is not in place and a loved one dies, it can lead to lengthy procedures,” stated Ingram.

McBride was the main speaker and described an advance directive as a document that gives a person the authority to handle the affairs of another, including use of a Do Not Resuscitate order. The person in question needs to have the mental capacity to grant authority, and if not, guardianship must be sought. According to McBride, a DNR must be signed by the person and doctor, and each keeps a copy. In South Carolina, only Emergency Medical Services DNR orders are set out in statute.

McBride also stressed the importance of people having wills, which name a personal representative and disbursement of property, as well as naming guardians or trustees for minors. The will protects heirs from debtors and can exempt bonds for the personal representative. The representative must file the original copy of the will with Probate Court after the person’s death.

McBride said a will can be handwritten but must be witnessed by two people and notarized. They must all sign at the same time and in sight of each other. In addition, the will should be signed outside the presence of heirs, dated and signed at the end.  It should be kept in a safe place with other important papers, and the representative should know where it is. McBride advised not to keep a will in a safe deposit box.

McBride also talked about the importance of a living will and a power of attorney.

A living will gives specific instructions to others on what is to be done at the end of life. The living will describes what should be done if the person is being kept alive via artificial means, whether the person wants to receive nutrition and hydration, and whether or not organs should be donated.

A general/durable power of attorney designates someone to handle the affairs of another and must be filed with the Clerk of Court. The DPOA can be revoked only in writing and must be filed with the Clerk of Court, as well. A healthcare power of attorney gives someone the power to make health care decisions when a person is incapacitated. It gives the designee permission to see healthcare records and discuss health and healthcare decisions with healthcare providers.

McBride advised that prior to making decisions on creating any advance directive, the person should discuss the matter with family and, if so desired, consult with a pastor and/or doctor. An attorney should be contacted, also.

Living wills, HCPOAs and DNRs do not have to be filed with the Clerk of Court.

In deciding on an agent, McBride advised there are certain things that need to be taken into consideration. They include trustworthiness, capability, ability to fulfill the obligation, willingness to serve as a representative, being close enough or willing to travel, and the ability to get along with the family.

More information is available from Hospice of Chesterfield County at (843) 623-9155 and from Probate Court at (843) 623-2376.

SCLS is a nonprofit law firm that assists low-income residents throughout the state with civil legal matters. It has a special grant to assist those over 60 years of age with certain legal matters and can even make house calls under certain circumstances. SCLS helps with estates and probates, physical abuse divorce cases and many civil matters. A complete list and information is available at the SCLS Web site, www.sclegal.org/.

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