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Basics of Estate Planning (Part 4)

Basics of Estate Planning Part 4

In the newest installment of Siedentopf Law’s series on Basic Estate Planning Documents, attorney Sarah Siedentopf discusses the Advance Directive for Health Care. It’s an essential estate planning document that ensures that the right decisions are being made concerning your health, and that the right person is in charge to help enforce those decisions.

TRANSCRIPT: Hi, I’m Sarah Siedentopf. I’m an estate planning and probate attorney in Atlanta, Georgia. We’re talking about basic estate planning documents — what do you need — and today it’s the Advance Directive for Health Care. It is basically a medical power of attorney. You’re giving someone the authority to make decisions if you’re not awake and lucid and able to make those decisions for yourself. It’s always important when you’re thinking about giving someone this authority to remember that anytime you are able to speak for yourself, you get to make your own choices. You are not handing this off to someone else who can override your decisions. If you are making decisions, then you are in control. It is only if you are not able to make decisions that this person gets called in. Another part of the Advance Directive is actually giving your decision maker information about what decisions you want made. There are specific options for treatment preferences, for things that tell that decision maker what you would want. This makes it so much easier for your loved one or your family member when they’re stuck in a hard position of trying to figure out what you want and maybe disagreeing with other family members. Often everyone wants what’s best, but there is deep disagreement about what best looks like in a given situation. So setting up the person who you know will follow your wishes as your decision maker and making those wishes known in writing so that they can show them to family members will help remove any questions or guilt or indecision and make sure that the right decisions are made for you. If you’re an unmarried adult who does not have a power of attorney in place for this, there is nobody designated to make those decisions. Now, there is a statute with a whole list of people who might come in and make those decisions — everything down to your cousin or your roommate. Someone who you don’t want making those decisions might be making the decisions. Also, this isn’t automatic. The hospital will be very confused and it will take a while to get someone in place making decisions. So, if you want to make sure that the right decisions are made and that the right person is in charge if you can’t speak for yourself, then the Advance Directive for Health Care is very very important. It’s a basic estate planning document that helps protect you. If you’ve got questions about this, I’d love to talk to you. Thanks.

For more on this topic, you can read our blog on Navigating Georgia’s Advance Directive for Health Care or our blog on Choosing Your Medical Decision Maker.

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