Q&A with Loraine: Designating Someone to Make Health Care Decisions?

Question: My children made a very poor medical decision for me years ago, and I need to prevent it from ever happening again. We live in different states. Whom should I list as next of kin who can make decisions for me? 

Loraine’s Answer: If you don’t want your children to make medical decisions for you, you need to complete an Advance Directive for Health Care. In that document, you can give your chosen people the authority to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so for yourself. You can name both an initial agent and one or more successor agents to act if the initial agent is unable to serve at a given time. The Advance Directive also contains provisions that allow you to state your preferences regarding what life-sustaining measures you do or don’t want under various dire circumstances. These provisions, which replaced the document that used to be known as a Living Will in Georgia, are optional, but filling them out can be critical to ensuring that your wishes will be carried out. 

You can obtain a Georgia statutory form Advance Directive for Health Care for free online. However, you may also want to consult an experienced estate planning attorney for assistance, because if you don’t have an Advance Directive in place already, you may not have other estate planning documents you need. The attorney can help you review your situation, ensure that you are protected in terms of finances and health care if you become incapacitated, and make sure that your assets will pass the way you want them to at your death.  

Once you have a completed Advance Directive for Health Care in place, you should give copies of it to your medical care providers. You should also take a copy of the Advance Directive with you any time you go in for a medical procedure and provide it to the providers and the facility. Finally, be sure to inform your agents that you’ve appointed them, and ideally give them copies of the Advance Directive as well. 

Key Estate Planning Takeaway: If you don’t want your next of kin, such as your children, to make medical decisions on your behalf, you need to execute an Advance Directive for Health Care and name the persons you choose as your health care agents. The Advance Directive allows the persons you’ve named to serve as your health care agents if you become incapacitated. 

This “Q&A with Loraine” blog series features answers based on responses from Morgan + DiSalvo Partner Loraine DiSalvo to questions posted on www.avvo.com. A key takeaway from each exchange highlights an important facet of estate planning. 

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