If you have a will or have been thinking of creating one, don’t forget to also have your attorney draft these other, equally important, documents in the state of Florida:
- Health Care Surrogate. If you’re in a hospital too sick or unconscious to make treatment decisions for yourself (Should you have surgery? One type of medication or another?), whom do you want to be making them for you? This isn’t always as straightforward as it seems—while most people select their spouse or grown child, if your partner suffers from severe depression, say, or your kid lives across the country, you may do better selecting a friend or other relative. This should be a person who knows you well, so they can deduce what types of interventions you would desire if you were able to make these decisions.
- Living Will. Doctors like to do all they can to save patients near death, which sometimes includes performing CPR or putting them on a ventilator. If you become terminally ill, however, you may prefer to be treated only for pain, and not to be aggressively or artificially kept alive. A living will—also called an advance directive—notifies your doctor of what you desire. (Note that this is different from a health care surrogate, because this covers only end-of-life decisions.) Doctors can use your living will to determine, for example, if they should put a “do not resuscitate” order in your chart.
- Financial Power of Attorney. This person can act in your place financially—withdrawing your money, signing contracts binding you, and, depending on how the POA is drafted, even selling your home. Until a few years ago, you could create a “springing” POA, which took effect only if you became very ill. Changes in the law now mean that as soon as you sign the document, the person has power over your money and possessions. I advise clients to create this only if they are very elderly or sick, and have someone they trust completely. I’ve seen cases where a POA has been valuable in ensuring that an ill person’s bills are being paid or the home they can no longer live in is sold, but I’ve also seen unscrupulous POAs used to clean out bank accounts and pocket the money. A frank discussion with your own family and then with your attorney will help determine if this is right for you.
Attorneys typically draft these documents in a package along with your will, to keep your costs down. Contact The Law Office of Gary Landau at 954-979-6566 to discuss which documents are right for you.