The importance of a medical power of attorney

On Behalf of | May 26, 2022 | Estate Planning

When people in Georgia and elsewhere consider estate planning, it is usually with the idea of taking care of financial matters and the distribution of assets to loved ones. We tend to think less about our changing needs as we get older and how certain health conditions that develop over time may affect our quality of life, creating increasing dependency and incapacity over time.

Along with a will, a power of attorney (POA) is an essential estate planning document that addresses financial or medical concerns. A POA is a legal procedure that allows a named individual to make important decisions on behalf of the principal should they become incapacitated. The chosen person is often someone that the principal knows and trusts, such as a family member, friend, or legal professional.

A Durable POA for healthcare

A medical POA, like a living will, allows the principal to specify the type of care they wish to receive, which can include the choice of:

  • Healthcare providers
  • Facilities
  • Medications
  • Procedures and treatments

A healthcare POA can also express the principal’s wish to withhold treatments, procedures, palliative care and other end-of-life decisions. By documenting their wishes, a medical POA formalizes the principal’s preferences while they are mentally capable in the event that incapacity prevents them from advocating for themselves.

While both legal instruments preserve the principal’s wishes for their medical care, a living will gives instructions for healthcare providers to follow, whereas a healthcare POA empowers a trusted loved one to advocate for their needs. Such a legal document also minimizes the risk of family arguments of healthcare decisions.

The Durable POA for Health Care (DPOA-HC) in Georgia

Every state has different laws, terms and requirements for a medical POA. The legal requirements for a DPOA-HC in Georgia are that:

  • It is in writing
  • The principal signed it while mentally fit
  • There were two or more witnesses present

In Georgia, the creator of the document is the declarant, and the named advocate is the agent. A DPOA-HC is revokable by the declarant, on destruction of the document, or in the event of divorce or remarriage, which will automatically revoke the POA if the former spouse was the agent.

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