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The Importance of a Healthcare Directive

Living will for advance directive

A healthcare directive is an essential document for everyone to include in their Florida estate plan. A healthcare directive (sometimes referred to as an advanced directive or advanced healthcare directive) is a legally binding document that states the medical care you want to receive in the event you are incapacitated and names an agent who can make healthcare decisions on your behalf.

Why Should You Have a Healthcare Directive?

Although you are not required to have a healthcare directive under Florida law, it is an important document everyone should include in their estate plan. The three main reasons to have one include:

1. Eliminates Confusion and Conflicts

A healthcare directive provides comfort and reduces stress on your family by clearly laying out your wishes. It provides a roadmap for how they should act during a very difficult time. If you did not create a healthcare directive and an accident or illness leaves you incapacitated, your loved ones will be left guessing what you would have wanted, causing guilt and uncertainty. Being forced to make intense decisions (such as whether to remove a family member from life support) quickly and under pressure is a position that no one wants to put their loved one in. Furthermore, if family members disagree on what medical care should be provided, it can cause friction within the family. In extreme situations, these arguments can tear a family apart forever. The healthcare directive eliminates these problems.

2. Prepares You for the Unexpected

No one wants to think about worst-case scenarios, but accidents and illness can happen to anyone suddenly. Making a healthcare directive gives you the time to think in advance and consider the end-of-life medical care that you would want to receive. Decisions regarding situations such as resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, tube feeding, dialysis, comfort care, and organ donation are difficult and should be made thoughtfully. For example, some people wish to avoid aggressive measures to extend their life when the result would only be continued suffering and delayed death. Others want to be given every chance at life. Often a major consideration is avoiding the financial burden of continued care that may not result in any significant recovery or positive quality of life.

Additionally, it allows you to decide who should make healthcare decisions on your behalf. You can choose someone who you trust and know can carry out the responsibility.

3. Ensures that Your Wishes are Followed

A healthcare directive is a legal document that your family, doctors, and hospitals must honor. It allows you to speak when you can no longer speak for yourself. Having this document ensures that the decisions made on your behalf are what you would have wanted. Even if you have already had conversations with your loved ones about your healthcare decisions, it is not guaranteed that they will honor these choices or that the doctors and healthcare facilities will follow them if there is no healthcare directive.

What Happens if I Don’t Have a Healthcare Directive in Florida?

If you do not have a healthcare directive and become incapacitated through an illness or injury, Florida surrogate consent laws give legal authority to an individual to convey the incapacitated person’s health care wishes and provide informed consent or refusal to proposed health care interventions. The law states that the individual must be chosen in the following order of priority:

• A judicially appointed guardian;
• A spouse;
• An adult child or the majority of adult children;
• A parent;
• A sibling or the majority of siblings;
• An adult relative who has exhibited care and concern for the patient and who has maintained regular contact with the patient, and
• A close friend of the patient.

These laws help families avoid the lengthy and expensive process of going to court to have a guardian appointed. However, they can lead to someone being appointed who you would not have wanted. Furthermore, even if you trust the person appointed to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, they may be unaware of your wishes or suffer feelings of guilt and confusion over what they should do for you.

Call A Naples Estate Planning Lawyer

If you have questions about healthcare directives, you should contact Nici Law Firm. James R. Nici is an experienced Naples attorney with over 25 years of experience in estate planning. He is well versed in these issues and can create a comprehensive estate plan that fits your needs.

Contact our office today at (239) 449-6150 or use our web form to set up a free consultation.

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