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Clear Direction – It’s Time for that Uncomfortable Conversation

By: Eric Gurgold, Esq.

Almost all estate planning clients have executed health care documents stating who should make health care decisions for them and their instructions on the use of life-sustaining measures. The documents naming an agent to make health care decisions have different names such as:

The documents making wishes known for end of life decisions and whether or not life-sustaining measures should be used are commonly called health care directives or living wills. The designation of health care surrogate generally names an agent to make health care decisions when you are not able to make decisions on your own.

Florida Estate Planning Laws

In Florida, a living will is used if you are terminally ill, have an end stage condition or are in a permanent vegetative state, two doctors express an opinion there is no hope for recovery and you have stated in your living will that you do not want to be kept alive by extraordinary means such as being placed on a respirator or ventilator, have tubular feeding or be artificially hydrated.
Florida law also provides that a competent adult can refuse medical treatment for any reason. If you are incapacitated, however, you lose the right to refuse medical treatment for any reason. Only if you are incapacitated, have an end stage disease, are terminally ill or in a permanent vegetative state will your living will become effective.

Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that you make your wishes regarding extraordinary medical measures known. If you are admitted to the hospital, be sure to verbally express your wishes before the treatment. Let the doctors, your health care agent and your family know what should be done in the event extraordinary medical measures are required as a result of your condition so the proper level of care may be given.

Takeaway

It may have been some time since you have looked at your health care documents. The COVID-19 crisis is a reminder to have that uncomfortable conversation with your agents and family members as to your wishes regarding health care treatment in the event you are unable to make decisions on your own.

It is time to dust off your health care documents, talk to your family, review the documents to make sure they meet with your wishes, and provide copies to your named agents. Your agents should scan them into their smart devices so that they can have them easily accessible in the event of an emergency. Be sure to also make your wishes known to all of your medical providers.

If you should need assistance with your estate plan, please feel free to contact your Henderson Franklin estate planning lawyer. I may be reached at 239-344-1162 or by email at eric.gurgold@henlaw.com.