Protecting Your Assets And Your Legacy


Every estate plan should include a set of advance health care directives. These documents generally include a living will, health care power of attorney (also known as a "designation of health care surrogate"), HIPAA forms, and an anatomical donation form. Together, these documents allow a person to plan ahead for their own health care in the event they cannot make their own decisions for whatever reason.

Living Will

A living will is a written or oral statement of the kind of medical care you want or do not want to receive if you become unable to make your own decisions, such as during incapacity. Commonly, a living will directs health care providers whether or not you want to remain on life support or receive any other death-delaying procedures or treatment. It is called a living will because it takes effect while you are still living and expires upon your death. Florida law requires a person to be competent to execute a living will.

A living will created in Florida must be signed at the end of the document by the creator (the "principal"). At least two witnesses must observe the principal signing the living will (or two witnesses must hear the principal give an oral will), and a notary is not required. A living will created in another state will be accepted in Florida so long as it complies with the laws of the other state or the law of Florida.

Medical Power of Attorney

In Florida, this document is referred to as a "Designation of Health Care Surrogate" and allows the person creating it (the "principal") to appoint another person (the "agent" or "surrogate") to make healthcare decisions for the principal if the principal suffers a medical event where the principal is unable to communicate their health care wishes to healthcare providers.

A Designation of Health Care Surrogate must be in writing and signed by the principal in the presence of two witnesses, and a notary is not required. The principal can make revisions to their designation of health care surrogate at any time so long as the principal is not incapacitated or deemed incompetent to make decisions for themself.

Authorization for Release of Protected Health Information

This document is required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and allows a principal's designated healthcare surrogate and other identified persons to obtain protected healthcare information on the principal's behalf in order to make informed decisions about the principal's care and to pay for medical bills.

Authorization and Direction for Disposition of Remains

In Florida, it is best to include this important estate planning document along with your other advance health care directives to ensure that your designated agent follows your specific instructions with regard to your funeral arrangements and disposition of your remains (whether by burial, cremation or other form).

Anatomical Donation Form

This form gives consent to the transfer of the donee's organs after death to living persons who need them, or to research at educational facilities.

As with any other legal document, using DIY or pre-printed advance health care directives is risky and you should always consult with an estate planning attorney to ensure your specific goals and all legal requirements are met.

If you have any questions about creating advance health care directives in Florida, or about any other estate planning tools, please contact me today!