What is a Living Will?

Living Wills

Everyone has the right to make decisions about their lives in the state of Florida, including the right to refuse medical treatments or procedures that would prolong their life if they have a terminal condition. To ensure that this right is not lost or diminished by being incapacitated mentally or physically, Florida Statutes Chapter 765 allows a person to designate another person to act on their behalf if they are incapacitated.

By making a written declaration, known as a “Living Will,” competent adults are able to direct what life-prolonging procedures or treatments they want or don’t want if they have a terminal condition.

Of course, a living will is not to be confused with a legal will, as the latter is only meant for personal property, or appointing a representative to oversee your property.

How Do I Make a Living Will?

By filling out the form of a Living Will, according to Florida Statutes Section 765.303, you can make all of the pertinent declarations needed to share your desires of what to do if you are incapacitated, with a terminal condition. This will help direct family members, physicians, law enforcement and all legal entities, toward what your wishes were when you were in sound mind and body.

In order to make that form officially legal, however, it must be signed by the person it represents, as well as two witnesses, one of which must not be the spouse or a living blood relative of the maker of the will. The state of Florida will recognize a Living Will that is created in another state, as long as it was signed within compliance of the Living Will laws of that state.

Once that Living Will has been signed by the maker, and two witnesses, then the maker must notify their physician that it does exist. It would be smart to notify your local hospital and have it placed in your medical records.

What Does a Health Care Surrogate Do?

A person may also designate someone else as their Health Care Surrogate, which will make all the healthcare decisions for them during any time period the person is incapacitated. It’s the Health Care Surrogate’s responsibility to consult the appropriate healthcare providers, and make decisions that they believe the person they represent would have made if they were capable.

A Health Care Surrogate must be designated by a written document that is signed by the maker, and two witnesses (one of whom cannot be a spouse or blood relative of the maker). Also, the Health Care Surrogate is not allowed to be one of the witnesses signing the document.

It’s also wise to designate an Alternative Health Care Surrogate, which would be a person that would assume the same responsibilities as the initial Health Care Surrogate if they either also happen to be incapacitated or if they refuse to perform their duties.

Revoking a Living Will or a Health Care Surrogate Designation

It’s possible that the maker can revoke either the Living Will or the designation of a Health Care Surrogate. They would have to sign and date a letter of revocation, or they can physically destroy the original documents. Another way to revoke it is by making a new document that is signed and dated at a later date than the original. The maker would want to notify both their physician, and local hospital that they have revoked the original.

Whether you are filling out a Living Will or designating a Health Care Surrogate in Florida, it might also be wise to get legal advice from your attorney or a nearby legal aid office.

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