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Understanding living wills and how they are used in Florida

Understanding living wills and how they are used in Florida

A living will is a document on which the maker, known as the principal, spells out their medical preferences regarding end of life situations in the event they are unable to make such decisions at that moment. As the principal, you lay out in plain and concise terms the kind of medical treatment you would want or not want during such a situation. Your living will can convey your preferences concerning life support, organ and tissue donation, resuscitation, etc.

A living will holds only while the principal yet lives

A living will should not be confused with a last will. It does not transfer assets or go into effect after the death of the creator. As opposed to that, a living will holds only while the principal yet lives and becomes annulled immediately they die. In fact, your living will has nothing to do with your last will or other estate planning document. It stands on its own specifically for your healthcare wishes and not for assets.

A Florida living will is also called Advance Healthcare Directive or Declaration

Florida laws binding living Wills

The 765.101, et seq. Health Care Advance Directives is the statute code regulating living wills in Florida.

The law dictates that the specific powers of the living will only covers mechanical or artificial procedures which may be used to supplant, restore, or sustain life of a patient in terminal conditional. It does not include medical procedures that only serve to provide comfort or reduce pain.

Legal requirements for a valid living will in Florida

  • The principal must be of legal age of adulthood
  • The document must bear the signature of the maker
  • The signatures of two witnesses must also be visible to connote their presence during the creation of the document.
  • Only one witness is allowed to be directed related by blood to the principal.

When does a living will become effective in Florida?

A Florida living will only becomes effective when your physician notices that you have lost that capacity to make such decisions.

The incapacity herein referred to involves:

  • Lacking understanding or knowledge whatsoever of the health care options available
  • Lacking the ability to convey your thoughts or decision to the understanding of others through any means possible.

Both points point to the fact that should you fall into any terminal condition that renders you incapable of making your own health care decision, the wordings of your living will become effective and are assumed to be your present decisions. However, if your family or doctor feels there’s still a slight chance of you being able to express what you want in some way, both parties would have to discuss if ideally your living will should be allowed to become effective.

To what extent should the doctor follow my wishes in my living will?

So long your living will is legal in Florida, the medical professional in charge of your health care is bound by law to follow all your instructions in the living will.

However, not all decisions or requests can be granted by the medical professional. The following instructions will not be followed:

  • Instructions which the medical professional deems to be absolutely useless
  • The instruction violates the policies of the hospital
  • Instructions regarding treatments that violate their own medical standards
  • Instructions that goes against their religion or morals.

Howbeit, your doctor cannot simply ignore or neglect your living will. If they find it to go against reason or rules, they must inform your family or whoever is responsible for you about the position they are in, if it will be their wish to take you to another location where your wishes may be honored.

Immunity for the health care provider

The law provides immunity to the health care provider in charge of the principal. Should anything happen in the course of carrying out your exact wishes as stated in the living will, the health care provider is not liable for prosecution.

Creating your living will in Florida

To create a living will in Florida, there are templates online which can easily be downloaded. This saves you the cost of attorney fees. However, some situations may require the legal assistance of an experienced lawyer in order to customize the wordings of the living will to suit your special personal desires. Kindly contact our Florida-based estate planning office for assistance creating a Florida living will.