One purpose of an estate plan is to plan for what you want to happen after you pass away. However, estate plans can serve several other functions as well. One other goal of an estate plan can be to plan what you would like to happen if you become incapacitated.

Some Georgians may be familiar with living wills and durable powers of attorney for health care, but these documents are no longer being drafted in Georgia. Since 2007, advance directives for health care have replaced these documents. Living wills and durable powers of attorney for health care that were drafted before this change should remain valid. However, all estate planning documents should be reviewed and updated regularly to reflect your current needs.

Advance directives are made up of three parts, which each serve a different function. An advance directive allows you to choose an alternate decision maker, express your treatment preferences and choose a potential guardian. However, you are not required to use all functions of the advance directive. You can choose to fill out only the sections that best fit your situation.

Choose an alternate decision maker

Part one of the advance directive allows you to choose an alternate decision maker, called an agent, to make health care decisions for you when you are unable to do so for yourself. Your agent is tasked with making decisions that reflect your wishes, so it is important to choose someone you trust and talk with that person about your wishes for medical care.

Express your treatment preferences

Part two allows you to make your wishes against certain types of medical treatment known. This may include your wishes to have a breathing tube or a feeding tube withheld of withdrawn under certain circumstances, such as if you have a terminal illness or if you are in a permanent state of unconsciousness.

Choose a potential guardian

Part three allows you to name someone to be appointed as your guardian in case a court someday determines a guardian to be necessary. A court would only appoint you a guardian if you become unable to make responsible decisions for yourself about personal support, welfare or safety. By nominating someone to be your guardian, you can influence who the court may appoint to this position.

There is no way to know what the future holds. Creating an advance directive for health care allows you to help make sure you receive only the care you want to receive if something happens preventing you from advocating for yourself.