Advance directives of healthcare, including components formerly called the Living Will, Health Care Agent Designation, and HIPAA Medical Release, are crucial elements of every estate plan in Marietta. One issue that does not come up very often when discussing health care directives, though, is mental health. Mental health falls into the realm of health care and, as such, is covered by health care directives.
Health care directives can be a great help to those suffering from mental health issues as it can allow a loved one to help make decisions about care, discuss treatments and medications with health care professionals, and fill out the documentation that’s sometimes necessary in order to receive needed health care services. Marietta GA estate planning attorneys advise that when making these types of decisions regarding who will advocate on your behalf in health care situations, especially when mental health issues are a concern, it is important to choose someone you trust to carry out your wishes.
However, it’s also worth noting that a standard health care directive may not be adequate when dealing with more extreme mental health issues, such as Alzheimer’s or schizophrenia. In these cases, it may be a good idea to consult with a Marietta estate planning lawyer regarding a “mental health care directive” that can be used for more extreme cases. Mental health care directives specifically cover items such as involuntary commitment, intensive therapy, and greater control over medications.
Of course, if a person is not cognitively capable of signing a legal document like a mental health care directive, this document will not end up doing anyone any good. In cases where a person’s mental state will not allow them to sign a legal document, a conservatorship or guardianship hearing must be held at the probate court in order to give a caregiver the authority to make mental and physical health decisions for their loved ones. This can be a long and difficult process, and it would be wise to consult with an experienced Marietta estate planning lawyer in order to determine what course of action would be best for your individual situation.
If you have questions about your health care directives, or if you’d like more information about how having health care directives can provide peace of mind when mental health issues are of a concern, please contact our Marietta estate planning law firm at 770-425-6060 or firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session at no charge.
A Health Care Power of Attorney, also called a Health Care Proxy or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, lets you give legal authority to another person (a proxy or agent) to make decisions about your health care if you are unable to make them yourself. This prevents the courts from getting involved if there is disagreement between family members and/or the medical community as to what actions you would want taken.
Keep in mind that you will continue to make decisions about your care for as long as you are able. You are only naming someone as a successor, to step in and act for you when you cannot. This document can be valuable even for short periods of time, such as if you are recovering from surgery.
But it is more associated with end-of-life decisions. The person you name as your agent or proxy may make decisions that will extend your life for as long as possible or bring your earthly life to an end. These decisions may include whether or not you should have surgery, if life support should be initiated, and/or if nutrition should be stopped. The legal document includes your wishes on these and other end-of-life issues.
This is a difficult subject for some people to even think about, but it is important that you do, and that you discuss these matters with your physician, family members and friends. The more people who know about your preferences, the easier it will be for your agent/proxy to carry out your instructions. Of course, you might change your mind over time, so let others (especially your agent/proxy) know what you are thinking.
Whom should you name as your agent/proxy? Here are some considerations:
- Most people name a family member, but you can also name a trusted friend.
- It should be someone who knows you well, respects your wishes and will follow your instructions.
- It might bring you some comfort if this person shares your values about faith, life and death.
- You should name more than one person in case your first choice is unable to act. But list them in the order you want them to serve. This would give your agent/proxy others with whom to consult and discuss options, but you want one person (not a committee) making the final decisions.
- Consider your candidates’ personalities and emotional make up, and whether they would be able to handle the responsibility.
If you have been asked to be someone’s agent/proxy, consider carefully if you would be able to follow his/her wishes when that time comes. Most people consider it an honor to be asked, knowing this person has chosen you to have his or her life in your hands.
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,