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When naming a health care surrogate, know their responsibilities

On Behalf of | Oct 21, 2022 | Estate Planning |

For many Floridians, an essential part of estate planning is being prepared if they become incapacitated. Having a trustworthy and competent person who will oversee their affairs, make decisions for them and look out for their best interests can eliminate a significant source of worry. One part of preparing for the possibility of being incapacitated is having a health care surrogate. To name the right person to fill the role, it is important to understand their responsibilities under the law.

What is a health care surrogate required to do?

The person who grants the surrogate the authority to make decisions for them should they become incapacitated is called the principal. The surrogate is expected to follow the principal’s instructions. These can be limited if the principal so chooses, but the limitations must be specified. This will include being given the authority to act on behalf of the principal and make health care decisions for them.

They can consult with health care professionals to give informed consent. The decisions will be based on what the principal would want if they were able to express their preferences themselves. If, for example, they require a feeding tube to receive nutrition, the surrogate must give permission for that. The principal should make clear what they do and do not want beforehand.

The surrogate can also assess the health issue, the prognosis and what would serve the principal’s best interests. If a certain treatment has little chance of changing the outcome and would cause unnecessary pain, they can decide against it. The key is what the principal would want. When consent is needed to perform certain procedures or for specific acts, the surrogate must decide whether to agree to allow it.

The surrogate can also be given the principal’s health information, apply for public benefits like Medicare, and have access to their financial and personal information. This information can be released at the surrogate’s discretion. In cases where a court-appointed guardian is named, the surrogate can still make health care decisions unless the court says otherwise.

With all parts of estate planning, professionals can explain the process

People might not know the full extent of a health care surrogate’s rights and responsibilities. It is a vast undertaking with difficult decisions that will need to be made. Naming the right person is essential. For assistance with this and all other parts of estate planning, it is wise to have experienced advice from the start to make sure the right person is named and everyone is prepared for all the legal and personal ramifications.