Advance Health Care Directives In Your Florida Estate Plan

Your estate plan should contain documents that provide instruction and authority for others to act in the event of your incapacity

Every estate plan is different. Because everyone's situation is unique, your estate plan probably will not look like that of your neighbor, your brother or sister. This is why every estate plan is "handmade" after consultation with an estate planning attorney. There is no one-size-fits-all plan.

However, there will be similar elements in every well-drafted plan that is designed to cover the main elements of your estate. Most understand that they need a will, which is a document that instructs the personal representative (executor) on how they should distribute your assets.

Depending on your situation, it may be very simple. You may have few assets and a limited number of heirs. Alternatively, it could be very complex, with numerous assets, a spouse, children, grandchildren and charitable interests. While a will can be effective, there may be better instruments to carry out your wishes.

What are healthcare advance directives?

Another important component of a comprehensive estate plan are documents that provide the legal tools necessary for someone to control your finances and your medical care, should circumstances occur that leave you injured or incapacitated in such a way that you can no longer direct your own affairs.

In Florida, there are a variety of legal tools you can use, either individually or in combination. They are known as healthcare advance directives.

A living will

Most people have heard of a "living will," which provides instructions to your doctors or family members as to the type of care wish to receive if you are left incapacitated after an accident or medical condition.

Health care surrogate

You can also use a health care surrogate, who is a person you designate to make your care decisions. When choosing such a person, you want to be certain you have fully explained your values and desires and it is best to also provide them with written guidance. This ensures that memories do not fade and that they have independent support, should others close to you question their decisions.

Durable power of attorney

In addition to documenting your wishes as it concerns your healthcare and medical treatment, you should also have a durable power of attorney. A power of attorney is a legal document that grants the authority to someone to act on your behalf as an agent. A limited power of attorney may authorize someone to complete a single transaction, such as a real estate, while a durable power of attorney, as the name implies, is durable and is still valid even if you become incapacitated.

This can very helpful to family members if you were to suffer a stroke or other incapacity. You would still have bills that would need to be paid and you may need to sell assets or make other decisions.

Absent this authority, your family would be forced to go through a guardianship proceeding, which would be expensive and emotionally trying, as a court would have to declare you incompetent in order to create the guardianship.

Even if you have a modest financial estate, creating an estate plan with these important documents can greatly reduce the stress and discomfort for your family in the event you suffer some form of incapacity.