If you are over 18, choosing a health care agent is one of the most important things you can to do to make sure someone has permission to act on your behalf in a medical emergency. See your East Cobb Living Will Lawyer to help you with this most important task.
If you’re not familiar with the role of a health care agent, this is essentially the person who will carry out your wishes regarding things like life-support, resuscitation and feeding tubes if you are incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. Your health care agent will also handle the day-to-day decision making regarding your medical care including (but not limited to):
- Medication administration
- Blood and blood products
- Diagnostic tests
- Long-term care (i.e. nursing home assistance, home health care)
- Hiring and firing medical personal
- Determining who can (and cannot) visit you during your hospital stay
- Getting court authorization to obtain or withhold treatment if your wishes are not honored by a doctor or other healthcare professionals
While choosing a health care agent may seem like an easy task, the process is actually much harder and complex when you start working to narrow down candidates.
Remember, your health care agent could be called on to make some of the most difficult and heart-wrenching decisions they’ve ever faced. The job could also turn out to be time-consuming and demanding if you are seriously hurt and require decisions to be made on a round-the-clock basis.
Not to mention, situations such as these can get very emotional. Your health care agent may be called on to carry out requests you’ve made, but they don’t personally agree with. They may also feel pressured by family members to make decisions contrary… …to what they know you would want under the circumstances.
For these reasons, it’s very important that you take your time in choosing a health care agent so you wind up with someone truly qualified for the job. If you’re feeling stuck and still not sure who to pick, here are the top three qualifications I, as an East Cobb Living Will Lawyer, ask my clients to consider when narrowing down their options:
Location– In a true medical emergency, your health care agent may be called upon to make round-the-clock decisions until you are stable. If that occurs, you’ll want someone who lives close enough to meet with doctors and visit the hospital whenever necessary. For this same reason, you might also want to exclude someone who travels on business a lot or has such a demanding schedule that it would forbid them from attending to your care.
Medical Knowledge- While your health care agent certainly doesn’t have to be an expert in medicine, you do want to choose someone who is capable of understanding your medical condition and the choices presented to him or her by the doctors overseeing your care. That may also require you to weed out candidates who are overly squeamish or emotional about medical subjects to ensure the best decisions are made on your behalf.
Loyalty- The person you choose as health care agent should feel a sense of loyalty to you and your wishes to ensure your preferences are fully carried out in the face of emotional stress, personal disagreement or pressure from other family members to make decisions contrary to those you have specified.
As a final thought, you’ll also want to choose someone whom you feel totally comfortable sharing your medical preferences with. Your healthcare directive can only cover so many situations that could arise; therefore, it’s critical you give your agent as much direction as possible in case they are presented with a decision not addressed in your legal documents.
Once you decide on an agent, you’ll need to legally document your choice! Call our East Cobb Living Will Lawyer’s office at 770-425-6060 to start the process of creating a plan that protects your wishes in a medical emergency.
As a Marietta estate planning attorney, I’m often asked, “what is exactly is a health care directive or living will?
Basically, an Advance Healthcare Directive in Georgia, sometimes commonly known as a Living Will, is a legal document that permits someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. This type of document is commonly associated with the decision of maintaining or removing life support for a critically ill loved one, but Health Care Directives and Living Wills cover far more than that.
Specifically, a Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care, or “Living Will,” allows someone to:
– Decide if you want your life to continue on life support or if you want to have them withhold treatment. (a/k/a “pulling the plug”)
– Pick a person to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so.
– Make decisions about pain relief options.
– Decide if you want your organs to be donated.
– To make any other decisions about your health care and treatment.
As you can see, a Health Care Directive or a Living Will is essential for someone looking to have their wishes carried out in the event they die or become incapacitated.
The person you select to make the decisions for you is called your Healthcare agent. The agent will be acting on your behalf so their role is very important. When you are selecting your agent, you should consider a few things:
-He or she must be over the age of 18.
-He or she must be reliable and readily available in case something happens to you.
-He or she must be emotionally able to make end of life decisions for you.
-You should consider adding two to three alternative agents in the event that the primary agent is unable or unwilling to make the critical decisions.
-If you appoint your spouse as your agent, and your marriage is dissolved or annulled, your agent’s authority is automatically revoked, unless you specify otherwise.
-If you are pregnant, your health care directive will not be honored.
While a health care directive can give someone the right to make all healthcare decisions for you, it is also possible to limit authority by clearly defining what their scope of power includes. For example, you may decide that your healthcare agent has the authority to decide what type of pain relief you are given, but limit their ability to decide whether to “pull the plug.” It is important to discuss this with an experienced Georgia estate planning attorney to make sure that you are very clear and specific in defining this scope.
Once a Georgia Advance Health Care Directive is signed, dated, and notarized or witnessed by two qualified persons, the Health Care Directive is valid forever, unless and until the individual revokes it. If the primary Agent refuses to follow the instructions dictated, the alternative Agents will be called upon to act on behalf of you, which is why it is important to name alternative Agents.
One final key point to consider when choosing your agent is that the person should actually want to have this responsibility. There are people who do not feel comfortable making such important decisions – even for their own spouse. Therefore, it is critical to have a conversation with whomever you are considering to ensure that they can and will able to make the decisions that you want them to make.
Setting up an Advance Directive for Health Care that truly protects your wishes in the event of your incapacity starts by meeting with a Marietta estate planning lawyer. Here at Georgia Estate Plan : Worrall Law LLC, we’ve made that process easier than ever by offering free Georgia Family Treasures Planning Sessions (normally $750) each month to readers of our blog. So call 770-425-6060 today to secure your spot.
Resolving to get your legal affairs in order is one of the most important things you can do to make sure your family, wishes and assets are protected if something unexpectedly happens to you this year.
Marietta, Georgia- While many people focus on getting out of debt or getting organized for the New Year, estate planning is an equally important personal finance goal that should make every adult’s to-do list.
That’s because according to Marietta estate planning lawyer, Steve Worrall, far too many area residents are without plans to protect their family, wishes and assets should something unexpectedly happen to them. A recent Lawyers.com survey further reveals that only 35% of adults have a basic will or other estate planning documents in place should death or incapacity occur.
“Contrary to popular belief, estate planning isn’t just for the rich,” says Worrall. “At a bare minimum, every adult needs a basic will, power of attorney and health care directives in place to avoid a legal and financial nightmare if something unexpectedly happens to them,” he adds.
So what are these documents and how do they help you in a time of emergency? Worrall explains the following:
- Will- A will is a document that specifies what should happen to your assets if you pass away. A will may also contain guardian nominations to dictate who will care for your minor children if something unexpectedly happens to you.
- Trust- A trust is a legal entity that can hold title to property. With your assets securely placed in a trust, you can minimize your financial exposure to lawsuits, divorce and bankruptcy while alive. Upon death, a trust will keep your affairs private and out of the probate court. It also allows a great deal of control for people who do not want their inheritance going outright to their heirs if something unexpectedly happens.
- Power of Attorney- A power of attorney or POA gives explicit permission for someone to access your personal accounts, pay your bills and handle all other financial and legal affairs if you are incapacitated in an accident but do not die. Under the current privacy laws, even a spouse may have a hard time accessing personal information without such documentation in place.
- Advanced Health Care Directive- Also known as a living will, this document specifies your healthcare wishes if you are incapacitated in an accident and unable to speak for yourself. Such wishes may range from whether you want certain medications administered to when (if at all) to start life support in critical situations. This document also allows you to appoint the person best suited to carry out such wishes should incapacity occur.
“Accidents and serious illness happen every day without warning,” says Worrall. “That’s why it’s so important for any adult who has not tackled their estate planning to add it to their resolutions this year. It will save their family from years of headaches and thousands of dollars in unexpected costs should the unthinkable happen”.
About Steve Worrall
Stephen M. Worrall is an experienced family law and wills, trusts and estate planning attorney in Marietta and Atlanta, Georgia. He concentrates his practice in all areas of family estate planning, including including wills, trusts, guardians for minor children and incapacitated adults, probate and trust administration, and all areas of family law, including divorce, adoption and prenuptial agreements. He also helps families plan to protect their assets and their children in the event of their death or incapacity, and to transfer their whole wealth – their financial, intellectual, and spiritual assets – to their loved ones.
If one of your New Year’s resolutions this year includes getting your financial and legal affairs in order should something unexpectedly happen to you, I have a gift I think you’ll enjoy.
To be specific, I just put the finishing touches on a free report I wrote entitled, “What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt Your Family: 5 Easy Ways to Make Sure Your Children, Wishes and Assets Stay Protected Should Something Happen to You”.
In this report you’ll learn 5 easy ways to get your legal and financial affairs in order, just in time for the New Year. You won’t even need the help of an attorney for some of these important steps; simply follow my instructions in the guide and cross each item off of your “to-do” list as you go.
You’ll also discover:
- How to legally name guardians for your minor children in a way that will hold up in a court of law
- The difference between a will and a trust, and which tool you really need to make sure your family, wishes and assets stay protected upon your passing.
- The details about simple document you can use to give someone legal permission to act on your behalf if you were incapacitated in an accident but did not die (…and without this document, no one will be able to help you under the current HIPPA laws!)
- How to amass your “entire family wealth” and leave a true legacy to your children (hint: you don’t have to be wealthy and it’s easier than you think!)
- And so much more!
To grab a copy of this report, simply visit http://bit.ly/gNUxIJ.
I’d also like to encourage you to forward this to any of your family or friends who really need to get their affairs in order just in time for the New Year. I would especially encourage you to reach out to anyone who has minor children, owns their own home, cares for aging parents or is approaching retirement age themselves.
Again, you can get a copy of this free report now by going to http://bit.ly/dGpJM1.
All my best,