In the past few weeks, we’ve covered the importance of having a Last Will and Testament and the benefits of having a living trust. But what if you are incapacitated as a result of illness, accident or advanced age and you lack the mental capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions about your own health care?
Generally, medical professionals are bound to make every effort to save and maintain your life. However, you can and should take steps now to control your future healthcare decisions with an Advance Directive for Healthcare.
On July 1, 2007, the new Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare replaced the Georgia laws on the Living Will and the Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. The Georgia legislature passed a model form essentially combining these two documents into one and addressing other areas that were not previously addressed in either document. The new Advance Directive for Healthcare deals with the same basic issues as the Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, but it also includes more specific language to deal with a number of issues that can arise, such as your preference regarding organ donation, burial or cremation, and whether you would want any feeding tubes, artificial hydration and/or certain life sustaining procedures such as a ventilator and CPR if you are determined by your physician to be in a permanent state of unconsciousness. It also now includes language regarding federal HIPAA laws related to the privacy of your personal medical information.
If you already have a Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, there is no requirement that you update them to the Advance Directive. The former are still valid and enforceable under Georgia law unless you revoke them. It is generally advisable, however, to have forms in place that closely resemble the “model” form as that is what most hospitals and doctors will be familiar with. As time goes on and as the previous model forms become less and less familiar to medical professionals, it will be more important to update to the Advance Directive for Healthcare.
William G. Lako, Jr., CFP®, is a principal at Henssler Financial, and a co-host on Atlanta's longest running, most respected financial talk radio show "Money Talks" airing Sundays at 10 a.m. on Talk 920 AM, WGKA.