Wills and Advance Directives for Health Care

Most of us are reluctant to think about the prospect of our own death or the death of a loved one. It can seem particularly frightening to contemplate the idea of leaving this life while there are still family members dependent upon us for care or financial support. These fears prompt many to procrastinate about estate planning.  Although it is very understandable that some people shy away from the idea of writing a will, it is important to get past these feelings and take a clear-headed look at the very real possibility that one’s life may end suddenly.

Wills are used to specify various types of actions you want taken in the event of your death. Wills typically include provisions specifying how some or all of your property and possessions will be distributed, who will serve as the guardian for any minor children, and who will be responsible for administering the process, among other things.

Wills are not just for the wealthy. Most find that the process is simple and surprisingly affordable.
Georgia Lord would be happy to help you prepare and execute an estate plan that reflects your judgment and your values. Once this task is done you will enjoy greater peace of mind, secure in the knowledge that you have made prudent plans for those you love.

Can’t I just write my own will, or use a form that I found online?
There are very specific legal requirements regarding the way in which a will should be drafted and executed; wills that do not satisfy these requirements are not enforceable. It is accordingly important to have your will prepared by an attorney who is familiar with the applicable rules.

I am not wealthy. Can’t I just let my relatives decide among themselves how to divide things up after I am gone?
If you fail to have a valid will in place at the time of your death, you make things more difficult for your survivors. If a loved one passes without an appropriate will in place it often means that his or her survivors must cope with greater uncertainty, expense, and inconvenience at a time when they are already dealing with serious loss. The time that follows the death of a family member tends to be one in which survivors are vulnerable to disputes, even in families whose members have always gotten along well with each other. The uncertainties and administrative burdens caused by the absence of an appropriate will can often fan the flames of these family feuds. Sadder still are the situations in which a parent’s failure to execute a will causes the custody of his or her children to end up being placed with someone whom the deceased parent would not have selected for this critical responsibility.

It is particularly important that nontraditional families take care of this type of planning. In the absence of a will Georgia law will apply certain presumptions and these presumptions are often inconsistent with what would work best for a nontraditional family. Persons who share a child or children with someone to whom they are not currently married, or who have remarried, should also be particularly careful to maintain an up to date will.

Once I have a properly drafted and executed will, do I need to periodically renew it or review it?
Although the mere passage of time does not render a will invalid the circumstances of your life may change and the relevant law may change. You should personally review your will at least once every two or three years to see whether it needs to be updated. In addition, you should always consult with an attorney to update your will if you have any major change in your life, such as a marriage, divorce, birth or adoption of a child, or a substantial increase or decrease in wealth.

I have heard that I should have a “Living Will” or “Health Care Power of Attorney”. What type of document do I need?
Another important type of document that all adults should have is the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care. An Advance Directive for Health Care is a document that allows you to authorize another person to make health care decisions for you when you cannot (or do not want to) make health care decisions for yourself. Although it may be frightening to visualize the types of situations in which an Advance Directive for Health Care is needed it is important to provide your loved ones with guidance about your preferences.