Florida Law has four advanced directives which are only valid during your lifetime. The documents are intended to direct who you would like to make both medical and financial decisions on your behalf.
DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY
The Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) offers an alternative to an expensive process of court-ordered guardianship proceedings. The “attorney in fact” or “agent” is named to act on your behalf in connection with personal, business, financial, or health care matters. This authority granted is typically very broad and can include management of assets, authority to access property, make financial decisions, make gifts and hire and fire agents, among other powers. A DPOA remains valid until revocation or by way of court order. The DPOA is effective upon execution. It does not require that you be incapacitated. Once you sign the document, your agent can act upon it. A photo copy is the equivalent of an original.
HEALTH CARE SURROGATE
This document designates a surrogate to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event that you are incapable of making medical decisions for yourself. In some cases, you designate that your surrogate can act even if you can make your own medical decisions. You can designate a primary and secondary choice and while it is typically a family member, it is not required. The surrogate will have the ability to consult with your physicians, consent to care, review medical records and consent to transfers to other facilities. This document also gives the surrogate the authority to carry out the terms of your “living will” (described below).
A living will should not be confused with a last will. It is a document used during your lifetime with the purpose informing your health care surrogate and treating physician your desires regarding medical treatment or withholding such treatment if you are incapable of making your own health care decisions. This document typically applies only if you are suffering from an end stage condition, terminal illness from disease or injury, or are in a vegetative state and there is a determination that medical treatment would not be beneficial. It is intended to convey to both your health care surrogate and your treating physicians that you do not want certain life-prolonging procedures performed. This document is included in your medical records and informs the physician and your family of your intentions and desires. This document is not necessary, but is useful to determine your intent if you do not want medical procedures to keep you on life support.
If there are incapacity proceedings that require a guardian be appointed, a preneed guardian designates who you would like to serve as guardian. While the DPOA and health care surrogate are intended to avoid guardianship proceedings, if they are challenged, or the court determines there are other reasons for a guardianship, this document allows you to choose the guardian.