When Floridians are crafting an estate plan, they will frequently consider the basic and obvious devices like wills and trusts. For many, however, there are other concerns that they want to address. That includes what will happen if they have medical issues, become incapacitated or are on life support as the only means to keep them alive and they cannot make decisions on their own. It is in these cases that durable powers of attorney can be useful.
Understanding state law in relation to these arrangements is a foundational part of the decision-making process as to whether it is necessary and desirable or not. With the durable power of attorney, a surrogate will be named to determine if the person – the principal – should stay on life support. This is often used as part of a person’s living will. When the durable power of attorney is created, to be valid it must be signed with two adult witnesses.
Based on the durable power of attorney, the decisions of the person’s health care while he or she is incapacitated will be made by the surrogate. That includes medical care, surgical procedures, mechanical intervention and other means to maintain life and other factors. Medication or a procedure to alleviate pain and promote comfort is not included in the durable power of attorney. Care cannot be withheld or withdrawn from a pregnant patient before viability.
The durable power of attorney can be revoked at the person’s request. It can be revoked when it is: signed, dated and in writing; the declaration is destroyed; there is an oral expression that there is an intent to revoke it; there is a materially different, subsequent advance health care directive; or there is a divorce revoking the spouse as the person’s surrogate.
For a variety of reasons, many people do not want to have certain treatments or be kept alive via artificial means. To ensure that the wishes in this regard are carried out, it is a wise step to have a durable power of attorney. A law firm that understands durable powers of attorney and everything that goes with them can explain the entire process and help to craft the documents.