Preserving Independence Through Advance Planning

What would happen if you were to become unable to make your own medical or financial decisions? Advance planning can help preserve independence and help you get your needs met your way.

Health Care Surrogate Designation

A Florida Health Care Surrogate Designation lets you legally authorize a person (your “surrogate”) to make health care decisions for you. Due to a recent change in the law, either you can designate that the surrogate can make decisions about your health care only after your doctor has decided that you are incapacitated (no longer able to make decisions for yourself), or you can select that the surrogate can make medical decisions for you even if you are still capacitated to make decisions. If you choose to make the surrogate’s decision-making powers usable anytime, it is good to know that your independence is still protected: if your surrogate makes a decision that is different than yours while you are still capacitated, your own personal decision will be followed, not the surrogate’s. A Health Care Surrogate Designation helps make sure that decisions about your health care will be made by the person you most trust, without delay or extra cost, and without the need for guardianship.

Living Will

A Florida Living Will allows you to direct your health care providers in advance whether or not you would want life-prolonging procedures provided in certain extreme circumstances. It would be put to use only if you were no longer capacitated to tell your doctors what you wanted and your own doctor plus another consulting doctor both agreed that you were in a terminal, end-stage, or vegetative condition and that there was no reasonable medical hope of recovery. Having a Living Will ensures that your wishes, whatever they may be, are known and can be followed. It can help avoid unnecessary guardianship procedures, needless suffering, and painful family conflict.

Durable Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney allows you to authorize the person of your choice (your “agent”), to handle financial matters for you. Most Florida documents made before October 2011 and all made after then are usable when made, not only when you are incapacitated. A Durable Power of Attorney can be a very helpful tool for making sure that your needs can be met quickly by the person you trust the most and for avoiding guardianship, but it can also lead to serious problems if poorly made or if powers are given to the wrong person. Because it is a legal document that grants so much power, there are many specific requirements for how it must be made. It is easy to make mistakes that could render it invalid or simply not right for your needs. Because of this, it is very important to have the attorney of your choice advise and assist you with making or revoking a Durable Power of Attorney.

How to Get Help

Bay Area Legal Services may be able to provide free assistance to eligible clients, or you can see the private attorney of your choice. An elder law attorney would be the type of lawyer most knowledgeable about these documents.

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