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Last month, I discussed powers of attorney and how they can be used in estate planning as well as daily activities. Although we often think about using powers of attorney for personal or business transactions, they can also be used for delegating authority to care for minor children or for making healthcare decisions.

As part of the 2018 legislation simplifying the adoption process, the Georgia legislature reformed the law that allows special powers of attorney to be used to appoint caregivers for minor children. The new law makes it much easier and less expensive for grandparents, relatives, or an agency to be appointed to care for kids when their parents cannot for a variety of reasons, including unavailability or military service. These designations can be especially useful in situations where grandparents are caring for their grandchildren, but the parents do not want to relinquish legal custody. With this document in hand (and on file with the probate court), the caregiver has the legal authority to make decisions regarding the child’s education, healthcare, and finances without having to go through the probate courts to obtain guardianship.

Powers of attorney are also used for healthcare decisions. A few years ago, Georgia combined a “healthcare power of attorney” with a “living will” (used to make end of life choices) into one document known as an “advance healthcare directive.” The advance healthcare directive appoints an agent who can make or communicate healthcare decisions when a person is unable to do so for themselves, often due to some kind of mental incapacity. Additionally, it instructs the agent and healthcare providers on the persons wishes regarding their treatment preferences and end of life choices, or as some might say whether or not to “pull the plug.” It’s used for designating burial or cremation preferences, donation of one’s body or organs, and whether to authorize an autopsy. Finally, it is used to name the agent or someone else to be one’s legal guardian, if one is ever needed to be designated by the court.

If you find yourself wondering whether you have the proper legal protections in place for yourself or family members, make an appointment with an attorney to advise you on the proper steps to protect you, your family, and your future.