After everything that's happened across the globe recently, it's no surprise that real estate planning lawyers have been flooded with inquiries from clients seeking living wills as well as related advanced directives. Apart from devising a realistic scheme for the apportionment of your assets upon your death, you need to leave specific and detailed medical directives to your close friends, family, as well as physicians. The purpose of a living will is to inform your decision-makers of your medical preferences when you are incapable of voicing them. If you wish to prepare your living will with the help of a knowledgeable attorney in Florida, we at Arnold Law are available to help.
What is the Definition of a Living Will?
A living will, also known as an Advance or Health Care Directive, is a legal paper used in Estate Planning that expresses a person's wishes for end-of-life healthcare treatment in the case that they are not able to communicate their wishes verbally. Despite the similarities in titles, a living will does not have any influence after someone's death, as opposed to a Last Will and Testament, that only becomes valid after a person's death.
As per the American College of Emergency Physicians, approximately two-thirds of people in the U.S have not made any measures to safeguard themselves under Health Care Directives.
A living will is a crucial aspect of someone's estate planning paperwork since it informs close family, friends, and medical experts about a person's desires for life-prolonging measures, treatments for fatal illnesses, end-stage ailments, or even persistent vegetative state situations. It assists in the elimination of disagreements over how to continue with end-of-life medical care.
It is a formal document that specifies your health care preferences if you become disabled. It differs from the Last Will and Testaments, which specify how you wish to have your assets distributed.
Many people believe that making a living will should be put off until they are sick or elderly. However, an unforeseen accident or illness can happen at any moment. Continue reading to understand more about Florida living wills, how you should write one, as well as what to include in yours.
Florida Living Wills
Each adult patient in Florida does have the freedom to make choices about their wellbeing, including the ability to accept or decline medical care.
In Florida, nevertheless, when an individual is incapable of making such judgments because of health reasons, they're termed incapacitated. As per Chapter 765 of the Florida Statutes, some Advanced Directives can be used to guarantee that any incapacitated patient's wishes are fulfilled.
This law establishes a capable adult's right to direct his/her doctor to offer, terminate, or stop life-prolonging medical attention, to appoint someone to execute such choices on their account, and to express desires concerning anatomical donation after death.
Requirements for a Florida Living Will
To be regarded as valid, a living will must meet state criteria regarding the need for notarization or witnesses. A living will does not have to be authenticated in Florida, but it should be signed in the attendance of two eyewitnesses, including one who can't be immediate family or spouse.
A living will becomes effective the minute it has been signed and also when an individual is considered unable to convey his/her preferences for medical treatment. It is also revocable at any moment.
What to Take into account Before Writing a Living Will
In the eventuality that you are unable to make important choices for yourself, a living will is employed to direct caregivers. It could also protect your dear ones from needing to make complicated decisions regarding your care, reducing the likelihood of misunderstandings or conflicts over what is best for you.
You should think about just how you perceive different medical treatment alternatives before writing a living will. It could also be beneficial to have a chat with those dearest to you to see if any of your friends and family are capable of acting as your healthcare proxy. Before drafting a living will, consider the following:
- Would I rather be submitted to each procedure available to extend my existence?
- Would I prefer to put my convenience and comfort first?
- Is it better for me to remain at home rather than be admitted to the hospital?
- Which members of my family, friends, or loved ones could I rely on to serve on my behalf?
How To Write a Living Will
Every state has its form or guidelines for what needs to be included in a living will. To guarantee that yours is valid, take note of your state's criteria. If you travel frequently to different states, ensure that your living will is acceptable in those jurisdictions as well. The steps outlined below are a broad outline for preparing your living will.
Consult with Your Physician
If you do have a primary healthcare doctor or a physician you visit regularly, talk to them about your future medical treatment. They can explain procedures or treatment alternatives to you, allowing you to reach an informed decision about the kind of treatment you want.
Select the Type of Care You Prefer
Medical treatment is a matter of individual preference. Certain procedures can be stressful on your body, that is why you should think about how long you're willing to deal with them. If your happiness is important to you, ensure it's stated in the living will.
Consult with Close Friends and Family
A living can relieve your family and friends of the pressure of making hard choices. Make sure they are conscious of your desires by communicating with them.
Make a List of Who You Want to Make Decisions on Your Behalf
A living will specifies your medical preferences and also who has the authority to make choices for you. You'll want to pick a person who will look out for your best interests in the case of an unanticipated complication.
A healthcare proxy (also known as a healthcare power of attorney) is a person who has been legally designated to make medical decisions for you. This is not the same as a financial power of attorney, which appoints somebody to make monetary decisions on your behalf. Vary from state to state, a healthcare power of attorney might be incorporated in the living will or could be an independent document.
One thing to think about is the possibility of a misunderstanding between the healthcare proxy and the power of attorney agent. The possibility of conflict is reduced when both tasks are fulfilled by the same person.
Seek Legal Advice
Drafting a living will necessitates a great deal of preparation and thoughtfulness. Consulting with an attorney helps guarantee that the documentation is worded in a precise and instructive manner that gives little room for debate.
You'll have to sign your living will in line with your state's regulations, which usually entails signing in front of witnesses or a notary. You can make changes to the living will at any moment by creating another document, but you must discard all past copies first.
Make Copies of the Will and Give Them to Important People
Although it could be appealing to keep the living will secret, bear in mind that it is likely that many individuals might want access to it. Your wishes could go unfulfilled when they can't locate them. Consider retaining the original document of the living will in your residence and giving copies to:
- Your physician
- Your medical files at the hospital
- The healthcare proxy or your power-of-attorney agent
- Members of your close family
Keep many copies of the living will at hand to guarantee that your medical choices and requests are always known.
What Should a Living Will Contain?
Living wills must only be used for medical attention or end-of-life treatment, and they should take into account any potential health issues or treatment outcomes. Use the scenarios below as a preliminary step, and consult with an attorney and a physician before completing your living will.
A ventilator assists you in breathing when the body is not able to do this by itself. This could keep you alive for a lot longer, so think about whether you would like to be put on the ventilator machine at all as well as how much longer you wish to keep it before it is taken off.
When you are incapable of feeding yourself, tube feeding can be used to provide crucial nutrition. If you want to be nourished using an IV or through a feeding tube, make a mention in the living will of when and for how much you would wish to be treated.
Treatment and Medications
Antibiotics and therapies such as dialysis could help to fight diseases and get rid of waste from the body. Many can save your life, but you may not want to undergo a procedure for a long time. Consult with your physician about the different treatment alternatives and their potential detrimental consequences so you might make an educated choice about your treatment and care.
This is sometimes known as comfort care since it aims to relieve pain and emphasize comfort when your therapy is still ongoing. To emphasize your comfort, you may prefer to accept pain medications or forego harsh procedures and invasive examinations.
You can specify whether you want to donate the following in your living will:
- Your body
- Your internal organs
- Your body tissues
You could also choose whether or not you want your remains donated for medical research.
In addition to addressing questions about organs as well as other body donations, a living will can give instructions on:
- A postmortem examination to ascertain what caused the death
- Burial, cremation, or another method of dealing with your remains
They are all personal choices that you need to make.
What are the Pros and Cons of Having a Living Will?
Below, we'll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of having a living will, as well as how engaging with a probate and estate attorney can assist you to plan for your future.
The Benefits of Living Will
The following are some of the benefits of having your living will:
Make Your Loved One's Lives Easy
When it comes to making critical decisions in your life, it will undoubtedly be a painful and stressful time for your family. Additionally, entrusting your medical decisions to loved ones could lead to misunderstandings and even conflict among family members who simply want what's best for you. However, with your living will, you could rest easy by ensuring that your loved ones will not have to make these tough decisions on your behalf.
Furthermore, therapy for chronic and fatal illnesses is too expensive. Creating a living will relieves you of the responsibilities of working out financing and ultimately deciding when to break off your family's care.
If you don't have a living will, then the state will appoint somebody, like a member of your family, to make decisions for you. This person may not be aware of your needs or desires unless they have been disclosed to them before your ailment or disability. The timeline of when the state will choose a representative differs based on the nature of the sickness you had and your mental condition before the selection is made. If you have a living will, you and your family won't have to stress over who will oversee this process because every one of the essential choices will have already been handled.
Get the Treatment You Deserve
Another advantage of creating a living will would be that it allows you to avoid any treatment that you wouldn't want. This essentially means that you'll only obtain treatment and procedures that you're familiar with and happy with. Healthcare care and treatment are not only expensive, but they could also be incredibly taxing on the body and mind. You can work collaboratively with your physicians to build a healthcare program that you are happy with, so you can be assured that you won't be forced to undergo any intrusive or unnecessary procedures without your permission.
The Disadvantages of a Living Will
Below are a few cons of having a living will
The Scope is Limited
Sadly, living wills aren't always capable of covering every eventuality, and for this reason, they are sometimes drafted in unclear terms. This can eventually provide your physician with a lot of leeway when it comes to making decisions. Furthermore, if a new therapy is developed after you have been incapacitated but you would have liked to undergo treatment, you might be unable to get it because you had not included anything in the living will mentioning new treatments. Nonetheless, careful writing with the assistance of an expert estate planning and probate attorney is another way to ensure that your interests in the finest treatment are protected.
Healthcare Providers Might Be Unable to Access It
Living wills, the same as regular wills, are often put in safety deposit boxes and found only when you've become incapacitated, undermining their purpose. For instance, if you become paralyzed in a car accident and nobody else knows about the living will, then it might not be found until it's too late. Nevertheless, this is yet another area where careful planning with your real estate lawyer could help, ensuring that your preferences are effectively delegated when or before they're needed.
Living Will FAQS
The following are among the most frequently asked questions on living will:
Who Needs a Living Will?
This is something that everyone should think about because they can give you as well as your dear ones peace. Making a living will early when you are healthy enables you to thoroughly explore all of your alternatives and prevents your loved ones from being forced to make tough decisions. A living will is especially important if you're having surgery or if you are gravely or terminally sick.
If you do not create a living will then you become disabled or otherwise incapable of making your important decisions for yourself, your doctors will delegate decision-making to your immediate family members (usually your partner, or your children, although it depends on your current state).
Living wills are especially significant since many states need them to establish that your executors can make important decisions on your behalf. If you do not have a living will, then a court order may be needed to decide if you are on life support. This could be costly and distressing for your family.
A doctor could also be given the authority to choose which family member's opinion should be followed.
What Is the Distinction Between a Last Will and Testament and a Living Will?
A living will specifies the kind of medical attention to be offered to someone incapable of making their own decisions. The living will implements a patient's declared wishes for medical treatment if they become incapacitated that they cannot oversee their treatment.
The stated wishes of someone concerning how their possessions will be divided or handled once they die are stated in their Last Will and Testament.
Do I Give Up Control of My living will When I Appoint a Healthcare Proxy?
You won't give up control of the living will as long as you possess the capability or ability to make important decisions. If you become incapacitated, your healthcare proxy has the legal capacity to make medical decisions for you.
Discuss your living will with the proxy to ensure that they know your intentions and are willing to carry them out if necessary.
Is It Compulsory To Have a Living Will in Florida?
No statute in Florida compels someone to possess a living will. If there isn't one, decisions can be addressed by the patient's spouse, grownup children, parents, siblings, a court-appointed caregiver, or anyone else the court deems suitable.
As a result, the chosen decision-maker might not have been the principal's favored individual.
Is It Possible to Make Changes to My Living Will?
living wills can be revised, changed, or revoked by the principal at any moment when they are intellectually capable of amending their living will, as per Florida Statute section 765.104.
Such revisions can be made in writing, acknowledged by the principal, and dated. To minimize confusion when using the living will, it's also advised that the previous, rejected living will be erased.
Is It Possible to Break a Living Will?
The following are ways in which a living will might be broken:
- By a healthcare proxy's authority
Your designated representative possesses the right to make choices on your behalf, even those that might be opposed to your preferences as specified in the living will. It is critical to pick someone you can trust as your representative.
- If your will is found to be invalid
For a variety of reasons, the state may rule a living will void. The wishes you stated in the living will might not be implemented when you didn't have the required witnesses, have earlier wills that have not been trashed, your state of mind is contentious, or the court determines that fraud affected your will.
What Is the Difference Between a Living Will and an Advance Directive?
A living will and an advance directive are not usually the same thing. Advance directives may involve living wills, but they may also include the following:
- An agreement for the healthcare power of attorney
- Any pertinent information regarding previous medical concerns
Advance directives are detailed documents that include living wills as well as other useful information. To establish what needs to be included in the advance directive, you need to consult with your attorney.
Find a Florida living will Attorney Near Me
Our attorneys at Arnold Law can assist you in drafting a living will as part of a thorough estate planning scheme that matches your desires and goals. With our expertise and decades of unmatched expertise, you can rest assured that your living will will be well-crafted, making sure that things go as smoothly as possible for you and your loved ones. Give us a call today at 904-264-3627 and we'll be happy to guide you.