Estate Planning allows individuals to make informed decisions about their health, finances, and assets before becoming incapacitated. To be deemed “incapacitated,” a medical doctor must determine that a patient has experienced a significant physical or mental change that impairs the ability to make personal decisions.
What is an advance directive?
Advance directives are ways to express personal wishes and plans for finances and health before becoming incapacitated. They include any or all of the following:
- Healthcare surrogate designations: naming another trusted individual to make medical care decisions for you upon incapacitation
- Living wills: statement incorporating the medical care you wish to receive upon incapacitation
- Anatomical donations: indicates your personal wish to donate some or all of your body to healthcare training programs
Benefits of Advance Directives
The state of Florida doesn’t require individuals to have advance directives. Without a directive, courts can appoint any individual to care for an incapacitated person. These individuals are usually close family members or other person a court finds appropriate. However, the appointed individual may or may not thoroughly understand your wishes. Advance directive let individuals decide for themselves what should be done with their health and discuss these wishes with the individuals identified in the directives.
Attorneys are not required to create advance directives, but are often consulted to ensure procedures are properly met and details are addressed. They can also guide individuals in canceling or changing details and ensuring individuals understand the implications of these decisions.
Alternatives to Advance Directives
A durable power of attorney, or POA, is another great option for some people. Like a healthcare surrogate designation, a POA is a written document appointing a specific person to care for your needs upon incapacitation. However, a POA can make financial and legal decisions as well as healthcare decisions.
A Do Not Resuscitate Order, or DNRO, is a document stating your personal wish to forego resuscitation after respiratory or cardiac arrest. Only the patient and attending physician signs a DNRO. Attorneys or other individuals are not required to execute a DNRO form, but attorneys can provide the form and help you decide whether it is a better solution for your needs.