Legal documents needed for end-of-life matters

Having a properly drafted will is an important part of an estate plan. However, there are other end-of-life documents Georgia residents should have on hand.

A living will details what type of medical treatments individuals want and do not want to have conducted under certain circumstances. It can alleviate the pressure on loved ones who would otherwise have to assume what the incapacitated individual would prefer. Copies of living wills should be readily available, and loved ones should be advised of their location.

A power of attorney for health care, or a healthcare proxy, allows individuals to designate someone to make medical-related decisions if they are unable to do so on their own. Choosing more than one person for this designation could result in conflict if the two parties fail to agree on the appropriate actions in a situation. However, it is important to provide a minimum of one alternate in case the designated person dies unexpectedly or also becomes incapacitated.

A durable power of attorney is used to authorize someone to handle all financial matters for an individual who becomes incapacitated. The designated person would be responsible for ensuring that bills are paid as well as other finance-related tasks. Individuals should keep in mind that some financial institutions require that their forms for designating authorized individuals are completed and resigned on a regular basis.

While many people have the appropriate box marked on their drivers' license, it may not be enough. To ensure one's organs are donated upon their death, individuals should sign up for the National Organ Donor Registry, an opt-in that cannot be superseded by family members.

An estate planning attorney may advise clients of which documents are needed to ensure that their end-of-life wishes are honored. Assistance may be provided with drafting living wills and powers of attorney.

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