When it comes to estate planning and making plans for the medical unknown, an advance directive can be extremely significant. If you live in Georgia and you’re considering creating an advance directive for yourself, this guide will walk you through the basics of what it is, how to create it and if it’s right for you.
When it comes to making plans for the end of your life, talking with a financial advisor can ease the process significantly. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can pair you with up to three financial advisors in your area. All you have to do is fill out a short survey. Your advisor can help you sort out your general finances, plan your estate and prepare for all the possibilities that may arise.
What Is an Advance Directive?
An advance directive, also known as an advance health care directive or a living will, is a legal document that outlines what health care decisions should be made on your behalf in the event that you are unable to make your own decisions.
Serious medical complications almost always bring plentiful decisions to make with them. Do you want physicians to try to prolong your life even if you’re suffering and recovery is unlikely? Should you undergo a surgery even if it’s risky? If you die, would you prefer a burial or a cremation? Advance directives outline these answers ahead of time so that your physicians know your wishes without ambiguity.
How to Create an Advance Directive in Georgia
Unlike some other states, you don’t need to use one official form to create an advance directive in the state of Georgia. Your document just needs to satisfy the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care Act to be legal and effective. Having said that, a pre-made form can make things easier for everybody. With it, you can be sure you’re meeting all requirements. Also, doctors will be able to better recognize and follow your wishes. Many hospitals and health care organizations have forms available online.
With your advance directive, there are three primary sections: appointing an agent, listing health care instructions and signatures. You don’t have to appoint an agent and list instructions, but you’ll need to do at least one for the document to have any effect.
If you choose to appoint an agent, whoever you choose will have full authority over your health care decisions. You can put limitations on that authority if you wish, but you’ll need to specify those limitations clearly. Also, you can list an alternate agent just in case your primary agent is unavailable for whatever reason.
You can choose to provide health care instructions in addition to or instead of naming an agent. If you choose not to list instructions, your agent will decide things for you based on wishes you’ve communicated or on what he or she believes you would want. You can provide whatever instructions you like. That said, you should provide your views on at least two situations. First, you should note if you would like doctors to prolong your life even if they determine that your death is imminent. You should also express what you wish to be done if you become permanently unaware of your surroundings or unable to interact with others.
Once you’ve written out all of your preferences, you’ll need to sign your advance directive along with two witnesses. There are some limits as to who can serve as a witness for you. First, both witnesses must be above the age of 18. Neither can be your agent or your alternate agent, and neither can be someone who would knowingly gain a financial benefit from your death. One witness can be an employee of your health care facility. However, he or she can’t be directly involved with your treatment.
Should You Get an Advance Directive?
If you’re wondering whether you should create an advance directive or not, you should primarily consider two things. First, you’ll want to reflect on your medical history. If you think there’s a likely chance you could enter into a situation where you can’t make your own medical decisions, then an advance directive is likely an important thing to have. If not, then an advance directive is less necessary.
The thing is, you can’t accurately predict what’s going to happen in the future. Because of this, you’ll also want to think about your individual medical preferences. What kind of treatment would you want in a hypothetical end-of-life situation? Do you have issues with any treatments or procedures? Unless an advance directive is in place, doctors have an obligation to try and keep you alive. So if, for example, you take issue with life support, then you’ll likely need an advance directive to be sure of avoiding it.
Advance Directive vs. Living Trust vs. Last Will
Advance directives can also go by living wills. Consequently, it’s easy to confuse them with both living trusts and last wills. These three documents do have similar elements, but they also have some key differences.
A living trust is a document that allows you to give control of your assets to a trustee during your life. The trustee manages the assets on your behalf and can continue to do so after you die. A living trust can be either revocable or irrevocable. This essentially means it can flexible to allow you to move assets in and out of the trust or not. You can outline in the document when you would like the trust to dissolve and who your beneficiaries will be.
A last will and testament, which also goes by a last will or simply a will, is a legal document outlining what should be done with your estate after your death. You can specify one or more beneficiaries, and an executor will make sure to carry out your wishes after your death.
We’ve touched on what a living will is. It doesn’t have anything to do with your estates or your assets, but rather how you wish to receive or not receive medical care once you can no longer make those decisions alone.
An advance directive can significantly streamline your process when it comes to planning for the unthinkable. By outlining your wishes clearly in a legally binding document, you can eliminate second-guessing by your loved ones and your doctors. If you have strong opinions about how you would like to handle any serious medical issues or if you think there’s a good chance you could become incapable of making your own medical decisions, then an advance directive could be a sensible thing to consider.
Tips for Planning Your Estate
- If the idea of estate planning has you immediately anxious, a financial advisor could be a big help. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can pair you with up to three qualified financial advisors in your area. All you have to do is answer a few questions about your financial situation. Then, the tool will do the rest of the work for you so you can get the help you need.
- When it comes to preparing for serious medical issues, having the right health insurance is extremely important. Make sure to choose a plan with a deductible that’s appropriate for your situation. Also, check that your doctors accept the plan.
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