If you have been reading along with our blog series on basic questions about estate planning in Florida, you probably already know about medical directives, even if we have not used that term explicitly. Medical directives, also known as advance directives, advance medical directives, health care directives, or by other similar terms, are essential pieces of every comprehensive estate plan. The help better explain what these documents do, why they are important, and what you can do to create them, let’s take a look at some key questions.
What are medical directives?
An essential step in creating an estate plan in Florida involves creating tools that address what you want to happen to you in the event you become mentally or physically incapacitated. Should you lose your ability to make choices, lose your ability to communicate them, or otherwise becomes significantly disabled, you will need medical directives in place to address specific questions.
The main kinds of questions medical directive answer come in two basic types. The first concerns what you want to happen once you become incapacitated. Do you want certain kinds of medical treatment? Do you want to refuse certain types of treatment? When? Under what conditions?
The second main type of question addresses who you want to make decisions on your behalf. Do you want to appoint your spouse as your legal representative? Do you want to appoint someone who gets to make health care decisions and financial decisions, or do you want to separate decision-making responsibility between different people?
Medical directives answer these types of questions by allowing you to make choices in advance that will take effect after you become incapacitated.
What kinds of medical directives are available in Florida?
There are two main kinds of medical directives available to people in Florida: the living will and the health care surrogate. A living will is a document in which capable adults can express their wishes about the kind of treatment they wish to refuse or allow in the event of their possible incapacitation. You can be as detailed as you like when you create a living will, but the document itself must comply with some specific requirements under Florida law.
A Florida health care surrogate, also known as a health care proxy or durable power of attorney for health care, is a document that allows you to name a representative who will have the legal authority to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event of your incapacitation. Like living wills, Florida health care surrogates must meet specific legal standards, and can only be made by someone who is a capable adult. You can choose anyone you like to serve as your representative, but the person you select must be capable, willing, and must be an adult.