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Preparing for Mental Illness

Elder law and estate planning offer a variety of tools to prepare for the possibility of disability. Most of the time, these tools focus on what will happen if a person suffers from a physical injury or illness. However, there are ways to also plan for the possibility of mental illness.

General durable powers of attorney and health care powers of attorney have become standard documents for estate plans. Almost everyone who has an estate plan prepared by a professional has these documents. Respectively, these documents appoint someone to handle an incapacitated person’s finances and health care decisions. However, there is another, similar document that far fewer people have. What is it? The psychiatric advance directive.

CNNrecently discussed this important topic in an article titled A Guide to Psychiatric Advance Directives.”

A psychiatric advance directive allows you to appoint someone to oversee and direct treatment if mental illness prevents you from being capable of doing so yourself. In some cases, you can even direct certain techniques, treatments or medications that should or should not be used to treat your mental illness. About half of the states have specific laws or forms that can be used for psychiatric advance directives. In states that do not have specific laws, the normal power of attorney documents can often be used to accomplish the same thing.  During the last Georgia legislative session, a bill was proposed to create a psychiatric advance directive, however, the bill did not pass.  Maybe it will be submitted again this year and pass.

A specific psychiatric advance directive may not be for everyone. However, if you want something different done should you become mentally ill, then talking to an elder law or estate planning attorney about a psychiatric advance directive is a good idea.

Reference: CNN (Last Review Date: Feb 17, 2014) A Guide to Psychiatric Advance Directives

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