There’s more to estate planning than wills and trusts. Advance care directives help take care of you while you’re alive, and there are various advance care directives designed to cover medical, financial, and professional decisions. One of the primary advance care directives is a living will and healthcare surrogate. 

Living Wills: Essential Info

Firstly, let’s review the provisions of a living will. Living wills and wills are completely different documents. While a will covers details related to the closing of your estate after you die – like assets, heirs, and finances – a living will focuses on medical decisions while you’re alive. A living will comes into effect during your life, while a will comes into effect after you pass away.

Any adult over 18 and of sound mind can create a living will in Florida. While living wills are considered part of estate planning, you don’t have to have a will or trust in place to create this document. A living will comes into effect when the principal – the individual who created the living will – becomes incapacitated. This may include health conditions like dementia, or scenarios where the principal is in a coma after a traumatic event like a car accident.

Any competent adult may, at any time, make a living will or written declaration and direct the providing, withholding, or withdrawal of life-prolonging procedures in the event that such person has a terminal condition, has an end-stage condition, or is in a persistent vegetative state.

– Florida Statutes 765.302

Your living will can include details on your wishes surrounding end-of-life care, including:

  • CPR
  • Ventilation
  • Tube feeding
  • Life support
  • Hospice care
  • Organ donation

A document that is closely tied to a living will is a healthcare surrogate designation. This document gives an individual of your choice the right to make medical decisions for you. Your healthcare surrogate should be well-informed of your living will, as they will gain access to your medical records and have the authority to speak with healthcare professionals on your behalf.

In many cases, living wills are legally recognized in other states and countries. However, challenges may still arise, depending on the laws of that destination. If you travel frequently or live in other locations throughout the year, we can provide guidance personalized to your needs. 

Creating a Living Will

Once you’ve decided on the information you’ll include, creating your living will is pretty straightforward. Laws surrounding the creation of living wills are outlined in section 765.302 of the Florida Statutes. Although Florida law does not require a living will to be notarized, doing so can add another layer of security to the document.

A living will must be signed by the principal in the presence of two subscribing witnesses, one of whom is neither a spouse nor a blood relative of the principal.

– Florida Statutes, 765.302

Also, securely storing your living will is just as important as creating one. Remember, if a crisis arises where it’s needed, you may not be able to communicate where it is. It’s wise to let your attorney, primary care physician, and healthcare surrogate know the location of your living will.

It’s also important to provide a copy to your PCP and any specialists you see regularly, so that information is immediately available, should you need urgent care. And you may wish to carry a card in your wallet or leave a visible note in your home, alerting family or first responders to its location.

A living will is a document that can develop throughout your lifetime. So long as you are of sound mind to do so, you always have the option to change your living will or establish a new healthcare surrogate. For more information, the American Bar Association provides these helpful insights regarding advance care directives.

Though you’re not required by Florida law to create a living will with an attorney, it can be extremely beneficial to work with one experienced in these matters. We’ll provide compassionate guidance to help you make informed decisions.