When someone is admitted into the hospital for treatment, one of the first questions he or she is asked is “do you have a copy of your advanced directive for health care?” This document is extremely important when it comes to making healthcare decisions for someone.

Merging Two Documents into One

Georgia law made a big change in 2007, making it easier for individuals to prepare some of the most basic and necessary estate documents. It was in 2007, that an individual planning his or her estate in Georgia no longer needed to have two separate documents: one living will and one durable healthcare power of attorney. These documents were combined into one document called an Georgia Advanced Directive for Health Care.

If someone had one of the older living will forms, a grandfather clause that was built into the document made those older forms binding. However, it is encouraged if someone has the older forms written pre-2007, that he or she meet with an estate planning attorney to ensure his or her rights are properly protected, and the information is up-to-date.

What Is the Point of an Advanced Directive?

No one really wants to think about it, but what will happen to someone when he or she is no longer able to make medical decisions on his or her own behalf? This incapacity could be because of illness or old age. Hospitals do not want to assume that they know what is in that person’s best interests, and neither do the relatives.

Plus, by not having the person’s wishes down on paper, this leaves the loved ones left to make this decision. This burden could result in arguments between relatives who do not agree over what the incapacitated individual would want.

These important decisions could be left to someone the incapacitated person does not really trust, or, in the event of extreme discord, in the hands of a judge who knows very little about the incapacitated person.

What Are the Healthcare Forms Involved?

Two basic healthcare documents are merged into one document called Georgia Advanced Directive for Health Care.

Part one of this documents names the person who will be in charge of making decisions for the individual’s healthcare, in the event he or she is not able to do this. This person is called your healthcare agent.

Part two details the person’s wishes regarding certain types of medical treatment that he or she would like to receive in certain situations. This section has the directions that you commonly find in a living will.

One of the most common situations is what will happen if the person has no viable chance of living on his or her own without the assistance of life support. Whatever decisions the individual makes regarding these decisions need to be followed by the healthcare agent, even if he or she disagrees. After all, these are the wishes of the person giving that individual the power to speak on his or her behalf.

Choosing a Healthcare Agent

It is always recommended that this person be someone the individual writing the document trusts to make these tough decisions. It also needs to be someone who is willing to stand up to other relatives who are likely to argue with them in the event they do not agree with the agent’s decisions.

It is always recommended that at least one alternate be chosen to succeed the first person, in the event that person dies or is not able to serve. Make sure the successors are just as trustworthy and are willing to accept the appointment.

Many people ask whether this person needs to be local to the Georgia area. While this person does not need to live in-state necessarily, it certainly helps if he or she is accessible. At the very least, this person needs to be able and willing to come to the incapacitated individual’s bedside as soon as possible.

Contact Brian M. Douglas, LLC today

If you are not sure you need an attorney, you can always come in for a consultation to discuss your situation. Call us today at 770-933-9009 or contact us online to schedule your consultation with a Greater Atlanta area estate planning lawyer today.