Every person needs these two documents
Imagine you’re walking down the street on sunny day when suddenly you feel a gripping chest pain and severe headache. Your next memory is waking up in an intensive care unit unable to speak, uncertain of what’s wrong and incapable of comprehending questions about your treatment.
The attending medical staff will do everything it can to keep you alive, even though “everything” might include procedures you don’t want but are unable to stop.
This predicament happens all the time, but you can avoid being a victim by preparing two documents that everyone should have: An Advance Directive for Health Care and a general Power of Attorney.
“These two documents will spare you and your family a lot of work at a stressful time,” says Judge T.E. Cauthorn, founder of Cauthorn Nohr & Owen. “You want to designate the right person before things get complicated.”
In Georgia you can go online to get the “Georgia Advance Directive of Health Care,” a form that designates the person you want to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself. The Directive gives guidance to your agent about your preferences under various conditions of incapacity and enables you to select one of several treatment options ranging from doing everything possible to extend your life to allowing your natural death to occur.
The form is recognized in every hospital in Georgia. If you travel out-of-state, it is still a valid directive, but other states may have local rules to guide them.
The second document you need is a general Power of Attorney, which names someone you trust to act in your behalf on matters other than healthcare. The person named in the Advance Directive will enforce your wishes for medical treatment, but who will be authorized to pay your bills or make financial decisions while you’re incapacitated? That person would be named in the Power of Attorney.
Here’s some sound advice:
· Engage your family attorney to help create both documents, especially if your attorney drafted your will. The coordination of the three documents is important.
· Choose your designated agents carefully. You are giving them authority to make important decisions –– in one case, life-and-death decisions.
· Tell people who need to know where you keep these documents so they can be found when needed. An Advance Directive for Health Care or Power of Attorney is useless if hidden in your sock drawer.
“You may not be able to avoid an incapacitating illness, but you can prepare for it wisely,” says Judge Cauthorn.