Although you may not give it much thought, over the course of an average week you make thousands of decisions. Some of those decisions are relatively unimportant while others may have a significant impact on your life. Either way, you probably take the ability to make those decisions for yourself for granted – most of us do. What would happen, however, if you were unable to make decisions for yourself one day because of your own incapacity? Chances are good you would prefer to make as many of those decisions ahead of time as possible. You might also want the ability to decide for yourself who will make decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself. The Vero Beach estate planning attorneys at Kulas & Crawford explain how you can do just that using advanced directives.
Incapacity Can Strike Anyone at Any Time
When you think about the possibility of your own incapacity, you probably focus on one day developing Alzheimer’s or another age related condition during your senior years. Although Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related conditions certainly can cause incapacity, the possibility of becoming incapacity is not limited to the elderly. A catastrophic car accident, a debilitating illness, or a serious workplace injury could render you incapacitated tomorrow. In fact, just over one in four of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before they retire. Whether incapacity strikes when you are 25 or 85, the questions will apply, including:
- Who would have the legal authority to make health care related decisions for you?
- Does that person know what your wishes would be regarding medical care, specifically end of life treatment?
- How can you ensure that your wishes regarding end of life treatment will be honored?
The answers to these questions can be found in your ability to execute an advanced directive now, before you are unable to make decisions for yourself.
What Is an Advanced Directive?
An advanced directive is a legal document that allows you to make health care related decisions now in the event you cannot make them for yourself at a later date. Each state decides what type of advanced directives will be recognized and what language must be included and/or procedures followed during execution, for an advanced directive to be honored when the time comes. In the State of Florida, the following advanced directives are recognized:
- Florida Designation of Health Care Surrogate – lets you name a competent adult to make decisions about your medical care, including decisions about life-prolonging procedures, if you can no longer speak for yourself. Your health care surrogate’s powers go into effect when your doctor determines that you are physically or mentally unable to communicate a willful and knowing health care decision.
- Florida Living Will — lets you state your wishes about health care in the event that you are in a persistent vegetative state, have an end-stage condition or develop a terminal condition. Your living will goes into effect when your physician determines that you have one of these conditions and can no longer make your own health care decisions.
Knowing you have advanced directives in place can provide you with a considerable amount of peace of mind because you know that your wishes must be honored. Moreover, you know that the person you want to make potentially life-saving, or life-ending, decisions for you will be the one making them instead of someone appointed by a court to do so.
Because an advanced directive must include specific language to be honored, and because you may need to include additional estate planning tools and strategies within your incapacity plan, it is in your best interest to consult with your Vero Beach estate planning attorney if you wish to execute an advanced directive.
Contact Vero Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding advanced directives, or you wish to get started on creating yours, contact the experienced Vero Beach estate planning attorneys at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule an appointment.