Understanding the Georgia Advance Directive

 

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Take Charge of Your Health With a Georgia Advance Healthcare Directive

Discover the ins and outs of a Georgia Advance Directive. Learn how to secure your healthcare decisions and why Perigon Legal Services is your go-to for estate planning.

Author: Stan Faulkner, Founder, Perigon Legal Services, LLC

Mr. Faulkner is an experienced counselor and litigator with 15 years of experience, having held bar licenses in four states (Mo, Il, Ct and Ga). Stan Faulkner uses this experience and focuses his skills in the pursuit of assisting individuals in probate (trust and estate) matters, guardianships and conservatorships, estate planning, business disputes and contract disputes. Published on December 13, 2023.

Generally, every adult has the right to manage their healthcare and make decisions about the type of treatment they get when they are ill.

However, there are situations when a person’s health condition is so grave that they are unable to communicate or make medical decisions. In such times, it would fall on the person’s loved ones, who may be dealing with the difficulties of the person’s situation, to make such decisions. Their decisions, even though made out of love, may not truly be the sick person’s desire for their future.

A Georgia advance directive is a legal document that allows people who wish to avoid such scenarios to specify the kind of medical care and treatment preferences they want to receive if they become incapable of communicating or making decisions for themselves.

If you are particular about what happens to you if you get terminally ill or incapacitated, or you have strong feelings about issues like organ or body donation after death, or you’d love to save your loved ones, the stress of making difficult decisions about your health you would likely benefit from having an advance directive prepared.

 In this guide, you’ll learn the basics of Georgia advance directives and how an experienced estate planning attorney in Marietta, GA, from Perigon Legal Services, can help you execute your plans.

How a Georgia Advance Directive Can Help You Communicate Your Healthcare Wishes

Before 2007, people made medical decisions about their health in advance through two different legal instruments: the living will and the durable power of attorney for healthcare.

A living will at that time was used to outline a person’s medical treatment options in the event that they became terminally ill or incapacitated and could no longer communicate their wishes to others.

On the other hand, the durable healthcare power of attorney, also called a Medical Power of Attorney in Georgia, enables the patient to choose proxies or agents to consult with physicians and make medical decisions on their behalf.

Many people would execute both instruments to ensure they covered all bases, but with the enactment of the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care Act and the creation of the advance directive form in 2007, things have become much simpler.

The advance directive form combines elements of both the durable power of attorney and the living will in a single legal document. By completing the form appropriately, you can leave specific instructions about your future healthcare and also appoint a trusted person to act on your behalf when it matters.

Legal Requirements for Advance Directives in Georgia

A Georgia advance directive must meet certain requirements to be valid, including the following:

  • The declarant (maker) must be an adult of sound mind.

  • The advance directive document must be signed by the declarant or by someone else under the declarant’s direction.

  • Two witnesses must sign the document.

Who Can Be a Witness?

Under the law, the following people cannot serve as witnesses:

  • The declarant’s healthcare agent

  • The defendant’s heirs or anyone who stands to benefit from the declarant’s death

  • Any person directly involved in the declarant’s health care. However, one of the witnesses may be an employee or staff member of the medical facility where the declarant is receiving medical care as long as they are not directly involved in the declarant’s treatment.

How To Create a Georgia Advance Directive

To create a Georgia advance directive, you need to complete the prescribed form, which comprises four parts:

  • Part One: This is where you can appoint a healthcare agent, someone you trust, to make healthcare decisions on your behalf when needed.

  • Part Two: In this part, you can state your treatment preferences that would apply if you are ever diagnosed with a terminal condition or become permanently unconscious. According to the law, the instructions you leave in this section would only kick in if you cannot communicate your wishes after reasonable and appropriate efforts have been made to communicate with you.

  • Part Three: Here, you can nominate someone to be your guardian if you ever need one.

  • Part Four: This is the signature part to be signed by you and your two witnesses.

To ensure your wishes are recognized, you’ll need to send a copy of the completed form to those who matter, including your doctor, your chosen agent, and your family. That way, everyone is aware of what needs to be done at the appropriate time.

Common Mistakes People Make When Completing the Advance Directive Form in Georgia 

When completing the advance directive form, there are certain mistakes that could invalidate your efforts. They include the following:

Failing To Sign the Form

The advanced medical directive form works in such a way that it can be tailored to each individual’s needs. That’s why it is divided into parts.

Depending on your goals, you may choose to complete some or all parts of the form (from parts one to three). But as long as you’ve completed even one part, you must sign part four with your witnesses. Otherwise, your advance directive would be invalid and cannot be regarded as a reflection of your preferences.

Choosing an Unqualified Agent

Some people make the mistake of appointing their physician or healthcare provider as their agent. However, those categories of people are not qualified to serve as agents under the law. The person you appoint as your agent should not be involved in your medical care; otherwise, your choice would be invalid, which defeats the entire purpose of having an advance medical directive.

Making Conflicting Wishes

In each part of the advance directive form, there are several options to choose from. However, some options in a section are in direct conflict with others.

For example, a person cannot state that they want their natural death to occur if they are incapacitated and then go in to select the option that allows them to be kept on a ventilator if they are unable to breathe. Those two statements are contradictory and could make it difficult to enforce the advance directive when needed. As such, it is important that you state your wishes clearly to avoid any misunderstanding.

An estate planning lawyer can help you avoid mistakes and ensure that your advance directive is clear, unambiguous, and complies with the legal requirements. That way, you’re sure that your healthcare wishes will not be ignored when they matter.

 Perigon Legal Services Can Help

The Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care makes it easy for you to take charge of your health and ensure you get the medical treatment you deserve when you cannot express your wishes.

However, despite the simplified process, there is still much room for error when completing the advance directive form. Sadly, an error in the form would make it difficult for your wishes to be enforced when they matter. Getting professional help while completing the form can help you avoid such an outcome.

Our estate planning lawyer at Perigon Legal Services focuses on helping people like you who wish to organize their estate and their lives for their future benefit and the benefit of their loved ones. We can help you create a clear advance healthcare directive reflecting your intentions and preferences.

We can also help you if you wish to create other estate planning documents like a trust or will that could help you settle and avoid issues or conflicts about how your assets will be distributed when you are no longer around.

As a testament to our passion and dedication, our firm helped many people create estate plans during COVID-19. But you don’t have to wait till another pandemic occurs. Contact us today, and let us help you plan for you and your family’s future.

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