What Is A Living Will?
A living will in Georgia is called an “advance directive for healthcare.” It’s a document that allows you to designate a person who can make healthcare decisions for you if you’re incapacitated. You can also explicitly state what those wishes are. So if someone wants to receive life support or other treatments, they’ll designate that in there. If they don’t, you’ll designate that in there as well. So it gives you kind of the ability to manage your health even when you’re not able to directly do so in the moment.
Do You Typically Recommend That People Set Up a Living Will?
Yes, I recommend that people set up a living will. It’s one of the more important documents as far as making sure that your body is respected and your wishes for your body come to pass. It’s also helps the family a lot. If someone’s ever incapacitated, and they’re in a coma or something like that, it removes any doubt from the family as to what that person would have wanted done. It removes the guilt from continuing or terminating treatment if that’s what the person wanted. So we find it very helpful in that regard. It also clears up a lot of ambiguities as far as whether they want a burial or cremation, what kind of care they would like, and who they trust to make those final decisions. It ensures that no one is quavering at the doctor’s office over these issues, or fighting over those issues after the fact.
Can I Make Changes For My Living Will?
Yes, you can make changes to your living will. In fact, you can make as many changes as you’d like. In Georgia, it doesn’t have to be notarized, as long as you have two witnesses who aren’t the healthcare agent.
What Happens If Someone Becomes Incapacitated Before Setting Up An Incapacity Plan?
In that case, what would happen is that Georgia law tends to defer to the closest family members. If there is no power of attorney or trust in place, and the accounts are not joint, the court would likely have to appoint a conservator to manage that person’s financial and real estate assets and then appoint a guardian to manage that person. It’s a pretty lengthy process. It could take several months, especially if there is a squabble among who should serve as a guardian/conservator. In the meantime, a lot of major decisions aren’t really getting made for the incapacitated individual.
Do A Lot Of People Fail To Set Up Incapacity Plans?
Incapacity planning often doesn’t carry the same urgency as other types of life planning. When people come in to do their estate plan, incapacity planning comes with it. But for people who haven’t done their estate planning and haven’t made any progress towards incapacity planning, that’s continually easy for them to put off. It’s our job as attorneys to emphasize the importance of these plans and to make executing them as accessible as possible.
How Does Incapacity Planning Make Things Easier For Me And My Family?
Having an incapacity plan in place makes things a lot easier in the sense that it removes any doubts as to what should happen if you were to become incapacitated. If someone’s incapacitated, the designated person can look at the documents, powers of attorney, health directives, trusts etc., to see exactly what is supposed to happen with the incapacitated person’s money, healthcare, and income. They can also easily see what tools they have as far as how to make that management as efficient and cost effective as possible. Having a plan is not as good as having the actual person there and capable, but it’s the next best thing.
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