What is a Living Will?
Many have heard of a living will and know that it has something to do with what your wishes are with respect to medical decisions, but few know the exact parameters of a living will.
#1. In Georgia, a living will is known as an “Advance Directive for Health Care”.
For the remainder of this blog, you will see the document more commonly known as a “living will” referred to as an “Advance Directive”
#2. Is an advance directive the same thing as a regular will?
#3. What is different about an advance directive as opposed to the regular will?
An advance directive is a document that specifically addresses your medical wishes and appoints someone to act on your behalf with respect to those wishes. A copy of your advance directive is also given to your treating physician to keep as a part of your medical file. A will is a document that covers your estate/belongings only upon your passing. A will states who inherits what (real property, tangible property, cash, etc.).
#4. Can I draft my own advance directive?
You could, but in order for it to be enforceable by a court, you need to execute the document in accordance with Georgia law.
#5. What specific medical treatment preferences are reflected in an advance directive?
You can state in your advance directive whether you want to withhold or accept life-sustaining procedures such as the provision of nourishment or hydration when you are in a terminal condition or a state of permanent unconsiousness. You can also make more detailed statements about what specific conditions will trigger certain treatment preferences.
#6. Why do I want an advance directive?
If you are ever in a state of permanent unconsciousness (i.e. coma) and you do not have an advance directive, then you are relying on default Georgia law. You might be leaving family members who have conflicting beliefs of what your wishes are fighting among each other. If you don’t have family members, then you are leaving that decision up to your treating physician.
#7. What if I have an out-of-state advance directive or living will or DNR (do not resuscitate) order?
So long as that document covers all the matters required by the State of Georgia and is considered to be in compliance with the Georgia Code, then Georgia will consider your out-of-state advance directive to be valid. However, your physician could be reluctant to accept an out-of-state advance directive as opposed to a Georgia advance directive because they may not be familiar with the different form. Ask your doctor if they will accept your current advance directive. Don’t wait until an emergency and have your agent find out that your advance directive won’t be accepted by your treating physician.
#8. I have an Advance Directive for Health Care according to Georgia’s Code requirements. Now what do I do with it?
Make sure to give your agent(s) a copy of the advance directive. If that document is ever needed in an emergency, they have the paperwork to give to your treating physician immediately. It’s also a good idea to give your physician a copy of the document as well so they don’t assume you don’t have one if your agent at the time is not immediately available to respond to an emergency. Emergencies never occur at a convenient time.
#9. Can I have an attorney look at my advance directive and tell me if it’s valid under Georgia law?
Absolutely, we will be happy to give a free assessment of your current advance directive.