Table of Contents
- Download a Georgia Advance Directive Sample
- The Basics: What is a Georgia Advance Directive?
- Who Should Have an Advance Directive?
- How to Select Your Agent
- Which Decisions Can Your Agent Make on Your Behalf?
- What to Do if You Change Your Mind
- How to Complete Your Georgia Advance Directive
1. Download a Georgia Advance Directive Sample
2. The Basics: What Is a Georgia Advance Directive?
A Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care is a document under the purview of estate planning that defines your healthcare intentions in case you someday become incapacitated. It allows you to outline preferred treatment options and select an agent to make key healthcare decisions on your behalf.
This document represents a considerable effort on the Georgia General Assembly’s part to simplify estate planning. Prior to 2007, Georgia residents were required to complete two documents, a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Living Will, to address the full scope of matters now included in the state’s comprehensive advance directive.
As you move forward with your Georgia Advance Directive, you will likely come across the following terms, which are outlined in O.C.G.A. § 31-32-2:
- Declarant: Known in some states as the ‘principal,’ the declarant is the term used in Georgia to identify the person who creates and executes an advance directive. If you are thinking of creating an advance directive, you will be the declarant.
- Life-sustaining procedures: This term refers to any machines, medications or other medical interventions that might keep a patient with a terminal condition alive without providing a permanent cure. This term does not include providing hydration or nourishment, although the withdrawal of either can be outlined in your advance directive document.
- Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Living Will: The primary estate planning document(s) used to appoint a healthcare agent and outline desired life-sustaining procedures before being replaced by the Georgia Advance Directive on June 30, 2007.
- Health Care Provider: The attending physician and any other person administering health care to you. This person must be licensed, certified, or otherwise authorized or permitted by law to administer health care.
- Health Care: Any care, treatment, service, or procedure to maintain, diagnose, treat or provide for your mental and physical health or personal care.
- Health Care Agent: The person you appoint to act on your behalf to make decisions related to consent, refusal or withdrawal of any type of healthcare as well as choices related to autopsy, anatomical gifts, and final disposition of your body.
For your reference, a Georgia Advance Directive is also often referred to as a/an:
3. Who Should Have an Advance Directive?
All adults residing in the state of Georgia will benefit from creating an advance directive. No matter which challenges you face in life, having an advance directive allows you to take solace knowing that your healthcare lies in capable hands.
While no defining moment is needed to spur you into action, many Georgia residents begin to think seriously about creating advance directives after undergoing one or more of these major life events:
- Welcoming a child into the family through birth or adoption
- Becoming a grandparent
- Moving out of state
- Entering a new profession
- Death of a loved one
- Diagnosis with a severe / terminal illness or condition
4. How to Select Your Agent
Agent selection is one of the most important elements of your advance directive. This person will have considerable oversight in your future medical decisions, so choose your agent carefully.
Not sure where to start? Keep the following questions in mind as you select a reliable agent:
- Is this person old enough and mature enough to serve as agent? At minimum, your agent should be 18 years old. Many people, however, prefer to designate agents who are older. Overall, maturity is essential, no matter your agent’s age.
- Does this person share my morals and convictions? While there are no specific requirements regarding your agent’s moral beliefs, this person may find it easier to abide by your wishes if he or she holds a similar worldview. If your agent doesn’t share your beliefs, he or she should at least be relied upon to set aside their personal views for the sake of carrying out your wishes.
- Does this person have the emotional capacity to handle such a difficult job? If you become incapacitated, your agent may face a variety of difficult decisions. This can be emotionally trying, even for the strongest among us. Your agent should be fully capable of handling the responsibilities outlined in O.C.G.A. § 31-32-7.
Be sure to discuss your intentions and preferences with your agent. Explain the full scope of his or her future responsibilities well before you draft and sign your Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care.
5. Which Decisions Can Your Agent Make on Your Behalf?
Your agent holds considerable authority over your future, as referenced in O.C.G.A. § 31-32-7. Once you are declared incapacitated, this person will receive access to your medical records. Other responsibilities and powers include, but are not limited to:
- The ability to accompany you in an ambulance.
- Consent to or refusing any and all types of medical care, treatments, or procedures relating to your mental and physical health including medications, surgical procedures, life-sustaining procedures or provision of nourishment or hydration.
- Admittance or discharge from any healthcare facility.
- Directing autopsies, anatomical gifts, and final disposition of your body, including funeral arrangements, burial or cremation—if you pass away.
Which Decisions Are Prohibited?
According to the restrictions outlined in O.C.G.A. § 31-32-7, your agent cannot authorize sterilization, psychosurgery, or involuntary hospitalization or treatment, as outlined in O.C.G.A. TITLE 37, after you become incapacitated.
6. What to Do if You Change Your Mind
It’s okay to change your mind after completing your advance directive. Life happens, and sometimes, a person who appeared to be well-equipped for the job may no longer seem ideal. Likewise, your evolving worldview may cause you to rethink previous decisions regarding end-of-life care.
You are allowed to revoke your Georgia Advance Directive at any time, as stated in O.C.G.A. § 31-32-6. Approved revocation methods include:
- Creating a new Georgia Advance Directive that includes provisions inconsistent with the original.
- Tearing, burning or otherwise obliterating the original document yourself.
- Having somebody else obliterate the document under your direction and while you’re present.
- Drafting a written document that declares your intent to revoke your advance directive. This document must be signed and dated by yourself or someone acting under your direction. If you’re already receiving healthcare at a healthcare facility, your intention to revoke will only become effective upon communication to your attending physician–by yourself or someone acting on your behalf.
- A verbal or other clear expression of your intent to revoke your advance directive in the presence of a witness 18+ years of age. Within 30 days, the witness must sign and date a writing confirming that your expression of intent to revoke was made. If you’re already receiving healthcare at a healthcare facility, your intention to revoke will only become effective upon communication to your attending physician–by yourself or someone acting on your behalf.
- Unless stated otherwise, marriage after the creation of an advance directive will revoke the appointment of anyone other than your spouse.
- Dissolvement or annulment of your marriage will revoke the designation of your former spouse as healthcare agent.
7. How to Complete Your Georgia Advance Directive
Depending on your preferences, your Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care may outline the basics or go into specifics regarding your future standard of care. No matter how thorough, your wishes must be outlined in writing and signed by you or by a representative under your direction.
O.C.G.A. § 31-32-5 also mandates that your advance directive be signed by two witnesses who are of sound mind and 18+ years of age. The state imposes several restrictions on witness eligibility, as outlined below:
- Your witness cannot also serve as your agent.
- Your witness should not expect to inherit anything from your estate or otherwise expect to benefit financially from your death.
- Your witness should not be directly involved in your current healthcare.
- Only one of the two witnesses can be an employee or otherwise affiliated with your healthcare provider.
Your Georgia Advance Directive can provide much-needed clarity as you plan for your future. While the process of drafting this document can be emotional, it’s more than worthwhile.