3 Essential Estate Planning Documents - Gwinnett County
Estate Planning is much more than just having a Last Will and Testament. There are 3 essential must-have documents that should be part of your estate planning plan - Will, Power of Attorney and Advance Directive for Health Care.
Will - A Last Will and Testament is the main component of your estate plan whether you have substantial assets and property or not. A Will ensures that your property is distributed as you want it to be distributed and not left to a judge's decision in a lengthy process known as probate in a Probate Court such as Gwinnett County Probate Court.
A Will give you the power to designate who you want as your executor or executrix as well as designate a guardian for your minor child or children. A Will can also be used to make special gifts known as bequests to specific individuals if you so desire.
Power of Attorney – A durable power of attorney allows you to select someone known as an agent to act on your behalf. A durable power of attorney means that the power of attorney will remain in effect if you become mentally incapacitated.
If you do not have a power of attorney and you become incapacitated or determined mentally incompetent then a number of things would have to happen that would be out of your control - a petition would have to be filed with the court, a hearing would have to be held, testimony and evidence would have to be presented, and a judge would have to make a final ruling.
Your Power of Attorney can be as broad or as limited as you would like. You can give your agent the power to do such things as write checks or made deposits to your bank account, pay bills, and sell property.
In Georgia a power of attorney does not authorize the agent to make health care decisions for you. In order to allow another person to make health care decisions on your behalf you need an Advance Directive for Health Care.
Advance Directive for Health Care – Georgia's Advance Directive for Health Care Law was enacted to replace the Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare with the new Advance Directive for Health Care. The Advance Directive for Health Care allows you to select a person known as your Health Care Agent to make important healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event you are incapacitated. You can name a successor Health Care Agent in the event your named Health Care Agent is unable or unavailable to act on your behalf.
If you already have a Living Will and/or Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare then they will be replaced by your new Advance Directive for Health Care.
There are four primary parts of the Advance Directive for Health Care:
Part I – Health Care Agent. The election of a Health Care Agent to carry out health care decision in the event you are incapacitated (this part replaces the old Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare);
Part II – Treatment Preferences. Making decisions about the withholding or withdrawing life support and/or accepting or refusing nutrition and/or hydration (this part replaces the old Living Will);
Part III – Guardianship. The election of a guardian, if you so choose, in the event that a guardian is needed in the future.
Part IV – Signatures – The Advance Directive for Health Care must be properly executed before two competent witnesses.
Every estate planning situation is unique and requires a review of your particular assets, liabilities and general financial circumstances to come up with a plan that best suits your needs. In addition to reviewing your assets, there will also need to be a review of your beneficiary designations in regards to bank accounts, life insurance, and retirement accounts, as well as guardianship designations if you have a minor child or children.
If you live in Gwinnett County or in the Metro-Atlanta area and are interested in having a Will, Power of Attorney and Advance Directive for Health Care prepared please contact Douglas W. Lewis by filling out and submitting the request form found on this page, or by calling our office at 770-682-3765 for a free initial phone consultation. Our office is located at 154 Stone Mountain Street, Lawrenceville, GA 30046. Client reviews can be found on Mr. Lewis' Google page, Avvo page, and on his website.
Doug Lewis is a Lawrenceville-based Family Law attorney who for over twenty years has handled cases involving estate planning, divorce, legitimation, paternity and child custody, name changes, personal injury, criminal defense, juvenile court, and civil litigation matters in the Gwinnett County and Metro-Atlanta area including Barrow, Walton, Jackson, Hall, Forsyth, Dekalb, Cobb and Fulton counties.