Empowering Your Healthcare Decisions: The Essential Guide to Advance Directives

Advance directives enable you to legally document healthcare and end-of-life preferences, ensuring that your treatment aligns with your values and wishes, even when you can’t speak for yourself.
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Written by:Tim J. Wooten

Attorney at Law

Tim has 20 years of practice experience and has wide experience with federal and state courts throughout the country in insurance coverage, insurance defense, complex litigation, construction and design, product liability, breach of contract, federal tax controversy and disputes before the IRS and U.S. Tax Court, settlements and probate, and multi-jurisdictional litigation.
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Life is known to throw us curve balls when we least expect them. A curve ball hits harder without a plan protecting our best interests or buffering expenses. In estate planning, attorneys can anticipate and plan for unexpected events we have yet to consider. Mental or physical incapacitation is one of those curve balls that, without an estate plan, can leave you vulnerable to a court deciding your medical care.

In today’s expensive and challenging healthcare environment, you must have a say in medical treatment and end-of-life care. According to Forbes Advisor’s article, “Advance Directives: What You Need To Know,” despite the importance, only a third of U.S. adults have formalized their wishes for end-of-life care. Advance directives are a powerful tool to ensure your healthcare preferences are known and respected, even when you cannot communicate them yourself.

Understanding Advance Directives in Georgia Estate Planning

Advance directives outline your values and wishes regarding medical treatment and care when you cannot articulate or make decisions personally. They help Atlanta residents plan for an unforeseen health crisis and appoint someone you trust as your advocate and decision-maker. They guide that individual on your choices for medical facilities, medications, procedures, and whether to perform life-saving measures. Maintain autonomy over your healthcare when you are not in a position to control anything else. Read our blog, Why Today’s Estate Planning in Georgia Addresses Cognitive Decline, to read about estate planning and cognitive decline.

Types of Advance Directives

  • Living Wills: Express your wishes in advance with a living will and provide input on medical procedures or treatments you do or don’t want. Answer healthcare providers’ questions in a legal document, including any religious-based decisions in a living will.
  • Health Care Powers of Attorney (POA): Also called medical power of attorney or healthcare proxy, this medical document designates a trusted individual to make medical or healthcare decisions on your behalf. When you cannot make these decisions yourself, a healthcare POA enables someone to decide based on the legal document.
  • Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Orders: Direct healthcare providers not to perform CPR if your breathing stops or if your heart stops beating.
  • Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST): These orders outline specific medical treatments you want or don’t want at the end of life based on a conversation about a medical evaluation by your physician. This legal document is valid once you and your healthcare provider sign it.

The Importance of Advance Directives

Advance directives are not just about making medical decisions; they’re about ensuring that your healthcare reflects your values, preferences, and specific wishes. They play a crucial role in:

  • Empowering Patient Autonomy: Ensuring your healthcare decisions are respected, even if you cannot communicate.
  • Facilitating Palliative Care: Increasing the utilization of care that focuses on relieving the symptoms and stress of serious illness.
  • Enhancing Communication: Improving the dialogue between healthcare teams and families, reducing stress and uncertainty.
  • Reducing Healthcare Costs: Preventing unwanted or unnecessary treatments that may not align with your wishes.

Key Advance Directives Takeaways:

  • Advance Directives Are for Everyone: Regardless of your current health status, advance directives are crucial to healthcare planning, ensuring your wishes are known and respected.
  • Communication Clearly: Discuss your healthcare values and wishes with your loved ones and healthcare proxy to ensure they understand your preferences.
  • Review and Update Regularly: Life changes, such as marriage, the birth of a child, or a new diagnosis, may necessitate updates to your advance directives.
  • Professional Guidance Can Help: Consult with an estate planning attorney for legal documents that reflect your wishes accurately and are legally sound.


Advance directives enable you voice your healthcare preferences and align treatments with your values and wishes, even when you can’t speak for yourself. Creating these documents provide clarity and comfort to your loved ones and healthcare team, making a potentially difficult time a little easier for everyone involved. Work with estate planning attorney Timothy Wooten  to discuss the advance directives you need in Atlanta.

Reference: Forbes Advisor “Advance Directives: What You Need To Know”

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