Advance health care directive a basic estate planning tool

Advance health care directives are a wonderful tool for preparing for incapacity, and to ensure that your personal care and medical treatment are handled the way you would want them to be. Our readers are familiar with the major stories that come out now and again where a family cannot agree on the wishes of an incapacitated patient. A health care directive is also an important way to avoid such conflicts.

The Georgia advance directive for health care allows individuals to appoint an agent to carry out health care decisions, specify choices regarding withholding or withdrawing life support and accepting or refusing nutrition and/or hydration and to nominate a person as Guardian in case a court determines one is necessary.

In the first part of the form, you select a "health care agent" to handle health care decisions. You may also have the agent make decisions for you after your death regarding autopsy, organ donation, body donation, and disposition of your body. Prior to making any of these determinations, it is important to speak with you agent about it, as well as other trusted individuals and your attorney.

The second part, which deals with treatment preferences, becomes effective only if you are unable to communicate your preferences, though "reasonable and appropriate" efforts must be made to communicate with you directly about your preferences.

The third section of the form deals with guardianship and allows you to appoint a Guardian in case a court decides one is needed. A guardian has legal authority to care for your personal property interests.

The final section of the form is where signatures of you and two witnesses. The document may be signed either by you or by someone else on your behalf in your presence and at your request in order to be valid.

The advance health care directive is a basic estate planning tool, and one everyone should fill out at some point.

Source: Online,; Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care, form and instructions.

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