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Understanding how An Advance Directive for Health Care, Power of Attorney and Will Are Different Documents, but Work Together

Aug. 4, 2021

It’s important to know what an Advance Directive for Health Care, Power of Attorney and Will can do for you and while they are different documents, they work together to ensure your wishes are followed; while you are alive and even after you pass away.

Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care

One must have document is the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care. Georgia law gives competent adults the right to make choices about their own health care. This includes the right to choose medical care, to refuse certain care or to stop care altogether. Georgia law also lets you choose someone to make health care choices for you if you are unable or unwilling to do so.

An advance directive is a legal form that lists your wishes about medical care and treatment. You may also name someone to make choices about your medical care and treatment if you can’t. These forms are called advance directives since they are written in advance of a serious illness, to let other people know your wishes. Before July 1, 2007, Georgia law recognized two kinds of ‘advance directives’: a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Georgia law changed in 2007 to combine these two forms into one simple form called ‘Georgia Advance Directive For Health Care.’

This document does not give anyone authority to handle your financial affairs. The document you will need to have prepared to take care of your financial matters while you are still alive is a Power of Attorney.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document that allows a principal to appoint an agent to act for them should they become incapacitated. The agent is expected to place the principal’s interests ahead of his or her own, which is why it is important for you and your loved one to pick a trusted individual. There are multiple types of decisions that the agent can be given the power to make. The power of attorney can be drafted to include all aspects of your financial matters or drafted for a specific purpose and period of time.

There are three types of power of attorney, each with its unique purpose:

Durable Power of Attorney. In this situation, the agent can perform almost any act as the principal, such as opening financial accounts and managing personal finances. This arrangement designates another person to act on the principal’s behalf and includes a durable clause that maintains the power of attorney after the principal becomes incapacitated.

Special or Limited Power of Attorney. In this instance, the agent has specific powers limited to a certain area. An example is a power of attorney that grants the agent authority to sell a home or other piece of real estate.

Springing Durable Power of Attorney. In some states, a “springing” power of attorney is available and becomes effective when a specified event occurs such as when the principal becomes incapacitated.

It is important to remember that once the principal passes away, the power of attorney no longer has legal authority. The only document that can extend the wishes of the principal and their estate is a will.


A will is a legal instrument that permits a person, the testator, to make decisions on how his estate will be managed and distributed after his death. An instrument disposing of Personal Property was called a "testament," whereas a will disposed of real property. Over time the distinction has disappeared so that a will, sometimes called a "last will and testament," disposes of both real and personal property.

If a person does not leave a will, or the will is declared invalid, the person will have died intestate, resulting in the distribution of the estate according to the laws of Descent and Distribution of the state in which the person resided. Because of the importance of a will, the law requires it to have certain elements to be valid. Apart from these elements, a will may be ruled invalid if the testator made the will as the result of undue influence, fraud, or mistake.

A will serves a variety of important purposes. It enables a person to select his heirs rather than allowing the state laws of descent and distribution to choose the heirs, who, although blood relatives, might be people the testator dislikes or with whom he is unacquainted. A will allows a person to decide which individual could best serve as the executor of his estate, distributing the property fairly to the beneficiaries while protecting their interests, rather than allowing a court to appoint a stranger to serve as administrator. A will safeguards a person's right to select an individual to serve as guardian to raise their young children in the event of their death.

Life Insurance, Bank Accounts, Other Assets

It is also important to know that naming a beneficiary on a life insurance policy, identifying someone to take over a bank account after you pass away (payable on death or transferable on death), and transferring assets into someone else’s name helps to keep those assets outside of probate; in other words, a will nor the courts need to be involved in those transfers.