If you are planning a “me time’’ getaway this Fall now that the kiddos are back in school, having a sudden debilitating injury is probably the last thing on your mind. You are dreaming of palm trees and margaritas, not full body traction! That is fine — you should enjoy yourself during your well-deserved getaway. However, too many people go on vacation and become injured without a policy in place to designate who and how their healthcare and other necessities should be taken care of.

This is especially important if you are a single parent and have family members who are too far away or otherwise unable to dispense care for you and any dependents you may have. Even if you can afford healthcare, you may not be able to speak for yourself. That is why you need an advance directive for healthcare (HPA) before going on that big summer vacation.

Here at Atlanta Wills + Trusts, we want you to enjoy your vacation with the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have everything accounted for should the unthinkable happen.

What Is an Advance Directive For Healthcare?

Sometimes known as a “healthcare power of attorney” or a “healthcare proxy,” a POA for healthcare is a legal document that names someone that you trust to be given access to your health records and to make critical decisions about your care and comfort if you become catastrophically injured and cannot speak for yourself.

The alternative to having an POA is letting doctors, healthcare professionals, and even lawmakers make decisions for you with no regard to the needs of your dependents, personal wishes, estate needs, specific health conditions, and requirements, or religious convictions. Alternately, it may be a family member who steps in, but will it be the right family member who will do what YOU want rather than what they feel is best. 

A POA ensures that someone who knows you well and cares about you will make these important decisions, rather than an indifferent stranger or a strong-willed family member.

The Benefits of an Advance Directive for Healthcare

By designating a healthcare representative, you are assigning someone you know and trust to step in and advocate directly for you. Your representative, or proxy, will have the authority to prevent healthcare professionals from making decisions that you would not want them to make.

This person would also have access to applicable life and health insurance policies. With this authority, your surrogate will have more leverage to tell doctors what they may or may not do to or for you.

Of course, you may not have any particular concerns other than receiving the best care possible. The difference can sometimes mean receiving life-saving care without delay, rather than doctors shuffling their feet wondering who is going to pay for their services or make decisions. If you do not have a POA set up before a catastrophic injury occurs, there may be an enormous amount of red tape to go through before full and proper care can be delivered. With your POA on the scene, you know that your needs can be seen to as soon as you are admitted to the hospital.

What About Authorization To Transport You?

You should also consider ensuring that your healthcare representative has the right to transport you, if necessary.  Why?  Well if you are somewhere where the treatment options are not plentiful or you would not trust the healthcare system, you want your representative to be able to move you to a healthcare situation where you would get the care you desire. 

We hear many stories of healthcare systems in other countries not being up to par with the healthcare system in the United States.  I appreciate that these are extreme situations that may arise.  But nonetheless it is a risk.

Allowing your advocate to move you home is important to you and your family!

How Do I Set Up an Advance Directive for Healthcare?

Like any estate planning document, the advance directive should be prepared by an attorney who specializes in estate planning. There is a state form and there is no requirement in Georgia that an attorney prepare this document, however, if you do not understand what the document is asking as you fill it out, it is critical to seek legal advice and the implications of filling out the form!

Also, these documents must be reviewed regularly to ensure that they still clearly and completely express your wishes.  To learn more about the benefits of an advance directive for healthcare, contact Atlanta Wills + Trusts. Our estate planning professionals will help you make sure your property, loved ones, and healthcare needs are protected.