What is a Durable Power of Attorney?
A durable power of attorney allows you to carry on your financial affairs in the event that you become disabled. Unless you have a properly drafted power of attorney, it may be necessary to apply to a court to have a guardian or conservator appointed to make decisions for you when you are disabled. This guardianship process is time-consuming emotionally draining, and expensive, often costing thousands of dollars.
There are generally two types of durable powers of attorney: a “present” durable power of attorney in which the power is immediately transferred to your attorney in fact; and a “springing” or future durable power of attorney that only comes into effect upon your subsequent disability as determined by your doctor. When you appoint another individual to make financial decisions on your behalf, that individual is called an “attorney in fact”. Anyone can be designated, most commonly your spouse or domestic partner, a trusted family member, or friend. Appointing a power of attorney assures that your wishes are carried out exactly as you want them, allows you to decide who will make decisions for you, and is effective immediately upon subsequent disability.
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Who can create a Power of Attorney?
Who may act as an agent under a Power of Attorney?
In Georgia, an agent may be anyone who is legally competent and over the age of 18. Often, it is a family member such as a spouse, sibling or a child. While more than one person can be named as an agent, naming two or more individuals to act together can prove inconvenient, especially if a power of attorney must be exercised promptly. It is usually more prudent to name one individual as agent and then another as an alternate.
Georgia law allows you to appoint someone you trust – for example, a family member or close friend to decide about medical treatment options if you lose the ability to decide for yourself. You can do this by using an Advance Directive for Health Care where you designate the person or persons to make such decisions on your behalf.
(NOTE: In 2007, the Advance Directive for Healthcare replaced the “Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care” and “Living Will” forms which the State of Georgia previously offered. Any Living Will or Durable Power of Attorney that you executed before the law changed is still in effect, but it does not hurt to replace these outdated forms with an Advance Directive.)
You can allow your health care agent to decide about all health care or only about certain treatments. You may also give your agent instructions that he or she has to follow. Your agent can then make sure that health care professionals follow your wishes and can decide how your wishes apply as your medical condition changes. Hospitals, doctors and other health care providers are guided by your agent’s decisions as if they were your own.