Marietta Estate Planning in the Comfort of Your Home

health care power of attorney

Many of my clients have parents whose health is starting to falter. They may be unable to make decisions for themselves about their health, safety, or finances. However, in some cases the parents are reluctant to give up any control over their assets and don’t want anyone else to be able to make decisions for them.

I usually recommend that if possible, elderly individuals execute a power of attorney and a Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare (in addition to a Will). A power of attorney and a healthcare directive will allow a named individual to make decisions about finances and health care in the event the elderly person is unable to do so.

In some cases, the elderly person no longer has the capacity to make good decisions about his or her finances, health, safety or welfare. In other cases, the elderly person might be being taken advantage of by a family member or friend, and doesn’t want anyone else to make decisions for him or her. In those cases, a guardianship or a conservatorship may become necessary.

A guardianship is a legal process in which a person asks the probate court to give him or her control over an adult’s health, safety and welfare. A conservatorship is similar but gives control over finances. Guardianships and conservatorships are often expensive and time-consuming, but in many cases are necessary to protect an individual from either being taken advantage of or from making poor decisions.

If you believe your mother or father or another loved one is in need of a guardianship/conservatorship, call Sarah White, Cobb County guardianship attorney, at 678-453-6490. She will help you walk through the process and will also help determine if any alternatives exist.

I get this question a lot. I also see a lot of clients with wills from the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s that are woefully out of date.

There are a few situations in which you should consider updating your estate planning documents. The first is if your personal situation has changed. Maybe you’ve gotten married or had children. Maybe one or more of your loved ones who are named in your Will have either passed away or your relationship with them has changed, and the documents no longer reflect your wishes. Maybe you did your documents when your children were very small and they are adults now. Maybe you have a great deal more or less money and property than you did when you originally did the documents. All of these would be good reasons to review the documents and consider updating them.

Another good reason to update your documents would be if you have moved out of state. It’s generally a good idea when you move from one state to another to at a minimum have your current documents reviewed, and generally they should be redone in accordance with the laws in your new state.

Another good reason to update or review your documents is if the estate tax laws have changed and you are unsure about whether you face an estate tax issue or not. A consultation with an estate planning attorney could potentially save you a lot of money that would otherwise go to Uncle Sam.

Do you think that your estate planning documents may be out of date? If you’re not sure, call Sarah White, Marietta estate planning attorney, at 678-453-6490 for a free consultation. I will be happy to discuss your situation with you. I serve clients in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, including Kennesaw, Marietta, Woodstock, Acworth, Cartersville, Canton, Smyrna, Roswell, and the surrounding areas. Call today to learn more.

This is a question I get a lot. The issue usually arises when an elderly person starts to need help with their finances or managing their regular activities. A power of attorney can be very valuable in situations like that. A power of attorney grants another person the right to handle an individual’s financial and legal affairs.

In order to get a power of attorney from a loved one, the individual granting the power of attorney must have sufficient mental capacity to enter into a contract. The person must know what he or she is doing by signing the document and giving someone else the power to manage his or her finances.

In some situations, it’s simply too late to do a power of attorney. The elderly individual may not have the mental capacity to do the document or may not want anyone else to handle his or her affairs. In that situation, a guardianship and/or conservatorship is needed. A guardianship allows a guardian to make decisions for an individual (called the ward) about his or her residence, health and safety. A conservatorship allows a conservator to manage an individual’s property.

If you are concerned about an elderly loved one, you should seek the services of a qualified Georgia estate planning attorney. If you’re in the metro Atlanta area, including Marietta, Acworth, Woodstock, Kennesaw, Roswell, Alpharetta or Decatur, call Sarah White, Marietta estate planning attorney, at 678-453-6490 today.

This is a question I get asked on a weekly basis. The answers I give are different depending on which document you are referring to. For a Will, when someone passes away and their estate needs to be probated, the probate court would prefer the original Will. The original Will should be kept in a very secure location, such as a safety deposit box or a home safe. Your heirs should know where it is and how to get it, and your attorney may want to keep a copy of it. You can also store your Will with the probate court in your county. A small filing fee is charged. However, if you anticipate making changes to your Will in the future, you will have to get the Will back from the Court and re-file the new Will later.

Powers of Attorney and Healthcare Directives should be placed in a location which is easily accessible. You may wish to give copies of those documents to your loved ones who are named in the documents. You may also wish to give your Healthcare Directive to your primary care physician to be stored in your medical file.

Do you have any questions about the storage of your estate planning documents? Call Sarah White, Marietta, Georgia estate planning attorney at 678-453-6490. I will be happy to answer your questions. Call today.

I get a lot of questions from people about what kind of health care documents they need. In the past they may have executed both a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care, or they may have read online that they need a living will and a health care proxy. In Georgia, those documents have been replaced with one document – the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care. Here are some things you need to know about the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care:

  1. It names people who can make health care decisions for you if you can’t for yourself. That person, the health care agent, also may be chosen to make decisions about an autopsy, organ donation, body donation, and final disposition of your body.
  2. It allows you to state your wishes on life support if you have a terminal illness or an irreversible coma.
  3. It allows you to select a person who could serve as your guardian in the event the court ever had to appoint a guardian for you.
  4. It can act as a HIPAA waiver – that is, it will allow your health care agent to have the same access to your private medical records that you have.
  5. It allows your health care agent to accompany you in an ambulance or to visit with you while you are in a hospital or other health care facility.
  6. It allows your health care agent to carry out your life support wishes.

I like the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care form. It simplifies the planning process by using only one health care form, and it’s fairly easy to understand. If you have questions about the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care, call me, Sarah White, Marietta estate planning attorney, at 678-453-6490 today.

A lot of new clients are confused about the health care documents they may need in the event of an accident or a debilitating illness. They often tell me they need a living will or a health care power of attorney, because that’s what they read online or were told by a friend.

However, in 2007 Georgia came out with a statutory form governing health care wishes, called the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care. It was intended to replace both the living will and the durable power of attorney. It’s a fairly easy to understand form, making it easy for Georgia’s citizens to make their health care wishes known. It is also available free online, and it’s a fill in the blank form, which also encourages individuals to complete it.

The Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care has two primary purposes – to allow someone to name another person to make health care decisions for him/her in the event the individual becomes unable to do so, and also to make wishes regarding life support known. The form also allows a guardian to be nominated in the event a court determines a guardian is necessary.

Once a health care agent is appointed, the health care agent has numerous powers: to consent to or withhold any and all types of medical care, to enter into contracts for health care for the declarant, to ride in an ambulance with the declarant, to see the declarant’s medical records, to donate the declarant’s organs, and to arrange a burial or cremation. In addition to the primary health care agent named in the document, usually one or two backup agents are named, in the event the primary agent is unwilling or unable to serve.

Do you have any questions about the Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare? Call me, Sarah White, Marietta estate planning attorney, at 678-453-6490 to learn more.

Although estate planning is important for almost everyone, it’s particularly important for unmarried couples. State laws offer some protections to married couples who fail to do estate planning, such as through intestacy statutes (which state the spouse automatically gets a percentage of the estate when a spouse dies without a will) and guardianship laws. However, couples that do not marry must prepare a few documents if they want to make sure they leave their partner protected.

In general, for unmarried couples, I recommend a will, a power of attorney, and a Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare, which are the same documents I recommend for married couples. The will states where a person’s property is to pass. This will insure that the unmarried partner’s property is protected. The will also provides who the guardian of any minor children of the couple is to be if something should happen to both of them. This can be crucial if there is a situation where the partners are not both the biological or adoptive parents of the children, and the biological parents are no longer in the picture.

The second document I recommend is the power of attorney. In a power of attorney, the signer gives another person the power to sign financial documents on his or her behalf while he or she is still alive. The power can be effective immediately or upon future incapacity. This document is crucial because it will allow the unmarried partner to handle the finances of the other partner if he or she was involved in an accident, developed Alzheimer’s, etc. Finally, I recommend a Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare. The Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare states who is to make healthcare decisions for an individual if the person can’t do so for themselves. The document also discusses who is to make decisions about the body after death, who gets access to healthcare records under HIPAA privacy laws, who should be appointed guardian in the event the court appoints a guardian for an adult, and life support preferences. This form is critical for an unmarried partner in the event of a healthcare crisis or death.

Although laws offer some built-in protections for married couples that unmarried couples don’t have, by drafting a few documents unmarried couples can make their wishes known. If you are unmarried and need some estate planning, call Sarah White, Marietta estate planning attorney, at 678-453-6490 to learn more.

I am going to start a Youtube channel where I will specifically answer on video the questions I most frequently get from clients.

Two of the questions I most frequently get are: do I need to file these documents somewhere, and what do I do with them now?

In Georgia, a will is not filed anywhere until death, when it is presented to the probate court to be probated. You may wish to give your doctor, nursing home or hospital a copy of your advance directive for healthcare (also known as a “living will” or “healthcare power of attorney”). You may wish to give your financial power of attorney to the person who you authorized to use the power — but then again, you may wish to hang on to that power of attorney until it is needed.

As far as where to keep them, if you have a safe deposit box I would keep them there. If not, a home fireproof safe should be sufficient. You should keep copies at a second location.