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Plan now for end-of-life care to make your wishes known

While many aspects of estate planning don't go into effect until the creator passes away, there are a few parts that will come into the picture before the person dies. In Florida, you can set an advance directive, which includes a health care surrogate and a living will. These provide for your health care if you are unable to make decisions for yourself.

Understanding the purpose of these two elements can ensure that you have everything set up according to your wishes. Discuss your end-of-life intentions with the person you name as your health care surrogate, as well as others in your family. This can take some of the guesswork out of the situation and help them to prepare for what might come.

Living will

Your living will outlines your health care wishes. Your medical team can review this document to find out what you are willing to accept and what you don't want in your final days. It doesn't become active until you are in a vegetative state or can't make health care decisions.

It is best to be as detailed as possible when setting up this document. For example, you can refuse to have certain procedures or treatments done. You can even set your wishes regarding organ donation in the living will.

Health care surrogate

Your health care surrogate is a person who will act on your behalf to make medical decisions for you. Unlike the terms in the living will, the surrogate can make decisions based on current facts. This person should be able to stand up for you if it becomes necessary. They must know what you want and have the ability to make decisions based on that instead of their preferences.

In Florida, you can name an alternate surrogate. This person will make decisions if your primary surrogate can't or won't handle these duties. It is a good idea to take advantage of this just in care the primary person isn't able to be contacted when a decision is needed.

There are limits to what your surrogate can do unless you provide them with the power to make these decisions. You must specify which, if any, of these they can do on your behalf:

  • Voluntarily admit you to a mental health facility
  • Withdraw or withhold life prolonging treatment if you are pregnant
  • Authorize sterilization or abortion
  • Permit psychosurgery, electroshock therapy or experimental treatments

You need to have your documents signed by two witnesses, at least one of whom can't be a spouse or related to you by blood. Your health care surrogates can't be witnesses to the document.

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