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Power of Attorney/Healthcare Agents


Article by Oren Ross

Photography by Oren Ross

A power of attorney (POA) is a document that authorizes someone (an “agent”) to make financial decisions for another person (the “principal”). In Georgia, an Atlanta estate planning attorney can assist you with preparing the specific POA document that meets your needs.

You may also need to prepare an Advance Directive for Health Care (ADHC) and name a health care agent. An Advance Directive for Health Care merges a living will with a medical power of attorney into a single legal document.

Do you need a POA or an Advance Directive for Health Care? What are the specific duties of a POA or ADHC agent? How do you go about selecting the right person to serve as your POA or ADHC agent?

If you will continue reading, you will find answers to these questions, and you will also learn more about the other important services that Georgia estate planning lawyers offer.

Who Needs a Power of Attorney or Advance Directive for Health Care Document?

Everyone 18 or older in Georgia should consider having an ADHC for medical decisions and a POA for financial decisions. If you are a business owner, if you have a family, or if other people count on you, it’s imperative to have the right legal documents already in place.

Should you be incapacitated in the future and not able to make decisions that must be made, a POA and an Advance Directive for Health Care gives your designated agent (or agents) the authority to make those decisions on your behalf.

How Does a Power of Attorney Work?

A POA for finances authorizes an agent to do business on behalf of the principal. It may authorize comprehensive powers to handle all of a principal’s financial matters, or it may limit an agent’s authority to particular kinds of transactions.

You may set up a POA for a specific purpose – dealing with bank accounts or paying monthly bills – for example. Similarly, an Advance Directive for Health Care may give an agent full decision-making authority or may restrict the agent’s duties to particular obligations.

How Does an Advance Directive for Health Care Work?

Unless you provide otherwise in your ADHC, your health care agent can make decisions on your behalf regarding the withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures and/or the provision of nourishment or hydration.

However, your health care agent is required to take any treatment preferences expressed in your Advance Directive for Health Care into account when he or she makes those decisions regarding your medical treatment.

You are not required to express any treatment preferences for a terminal condition or state of permanent unconsciousness in an Advance Directive for Health Care. If you wish, you may use an ADHC only to designate your health care agent.

Do You Have a Living Will?

Georgia previously provided for the declaration of treatment preferences for a terminal condition and state of permanent unconsciousness in a document called a living will. Since 2007, however, the ADHC in Georgia has replaced the living will.

A living will prepared prior to 2007 remains in effect, but you should probably have an estate planning attorney help you replace your living will with an up-to-date Advance Directive for Health Care.

How Should You Select an ADHC or POA Agent?

The first step in preparing an Advance Directive for Health Care or a financial POA is choosing a person who can be trusted with your medical or financial details. It should be someone you can trust with your life, because that is in fact what you are doing.

An agent should be committed to your best interests, organized, good with details, and comfortable working with medical and financial professionals.

You also should designate a successor or secondary agent in case your first designated agent is unable to take on power of attorney agent duties when those services are required. An agent’s responsibilities conclude when the POA or ADHC document expires or the agent resigns.

The document also expires when the principal revokes it or when the matter for which the document was created has been resolved. And upon the principal’s death, a POA and ADHC are no longer in effect.

Can a POA or ADHC Be Revoked?

In Georgia, the principal may revoke an Advance Directive for Health Care or a power of attorney document at any time. Divorce automatically revokes agency when the spouse was the designated agent. A new ADHC or POA also automatically revokes an older document.

In Georgia, a power of attorney document must be signed by the principal and notarized in front of one or more witnesses. The notary cannot also be the witness.

Since 2017, Georgia’s Uniform Power of Attorney Act requires banks and other parties to accept POAs, but if your power of attorney was prepared in this state before July 1, 2017, an estate planning attorney should review the document promptly, because it may need revisions.

What Else Should You Know About POAs and ADHCs?

If your health is good, you probably don’t need a POA or ADHC at the moment. But if you have not prepared these documents, and you are suddenly incapacitated, your family members may not know what decisions to make and may not even be able to cash your checks or pay your bills.

Do not use those blank ADHC and POA forms you find online. Your legal documents need to be personalized and precise. Have an Atlanta estate planning lawyer prepare your power of attorney and ADHC to ensure that the documents meet your needs and comply with Georgia law.

Your attorney will ensure that your power of attorney and Advance Directive for Health Care are easy to understand, that no detail is overlooked, and that you have every chance to consider your options thoughtfully, thoroughly, and carefully.

Should You Have an All-Inclusive Estate Plan?

A power of attorney and an Advance Directive for Health Care are both essential elements of a comprehensive estate plan. Your plan may additionally include a living trust and your last will and testament.

An estate planning attorney in the Atlanta area can help you draft a power of attorney, an Advance Directive for Health Care, a trust, a will, or an all-inclusive plan that safeguards your interests and guarantees that your wishes and instructions are honored when that day comes.

Nobody knows what tomorrow may hold. Estate planning can’t be done in haste, so the time to start planning for your family and your estate is today. Contact Atlanta estate planning attorney Oren Ross at Oren Ross & Associates at once to find out more about POAs, ADHCs, and your other estate planning options.