Living Will Attorney

We will all have to make tough decisions about our end-of-life medical care. Yet, less than half of Americans over 65 years old have outlined their end-of-life care wishes in a living will. A living will is an essential estate planning document, but it can be emotionally complicated to prepare. 

At Medley Law Firm, we understand that these decisions can be tough. We’re ready to help you chart your path forward and give you peace of mind that your wishes will be respected. Call us today

What is a Living Will? 

In the realm of estate planning, a living will is an important document, yet it often remains overlooked or misunderstood. A living will—also known as an advance healthcare directive—serves as a written statement detailing an individual’s preferences regarding medical treatment and end-of-life care if they become incapacitated and are unable to communicate their wishes.

At its core, a living will outlines the medical interventions a person desires or rejects under specific circumstances. These may include decisions about life support, resuscitation, pain management, and organ donation. By documenting these preferences in advance, individuals ensure their healthcare choices align with their values and beliefs, even if they are unable to express them verbally later on.

Who Should Have a Living Will? 

 While older adults often prioritize estate planning, younger individuals should also consider creating a living will. Accidents, sudden illnesses, or unforeseen medical emergencies can impact anyone, regardless of age or health. Therefore, having a living will in place empowers individuals to maintain control over their medical treatment and relieve their loved ones of the burden of making difficult decisions on their behalf.

In essence, anyone over the age of 18, regardless of their health status, should have a living will. However, it becomes increasingly crucial for individuals with specific medical conditions, advanced age, or those undergoing significant medical treatments to have a comprehensive living will in place. 

Individuals with strong preferences regarding end-of-life care or medical interventions should prioritize creating a living will to ensure their wishes are honored. Ultimately, a living will serves as a proactive measure to safeguard one’s autonomy and dignity, providing peace of mind for both individuals and their families.

How Do I Create a Living Will? 

How is a living will prepared? 

Preparing a living will in Florida involves several steps. Here’s a breakdown of the process, including requirements and considerations specific to Florida:

1. Understanding the Purpose and Scope:

Before diving into the creation process, it’s crucial to understand the purpose and scope of a living will. Determine the medical treatments and interventions you wish to specify, including preferences for life-sustaining measures, resuscitation, and end-of-life care.

2. Consultation with Legal Professionals:

While not a legal requirement, seeking guidance from an experienced estate planning attorney can ensure your living will adheres to Florida’s laws and addresses all necessary components. An attorney can provide valuable insights, answer questions, and help draft the document according to your wishes.

3. Documenting Your Preferences:

In Florida, a living will must be in writing and signed by the creator, or the creator’s representative, in the presence of two witnesses. These witnesses must also sign the document, affirming the creator’s signature. It’s essential to clearly articulate your healthcare preferences and instructions regarding medical treatment and end-of-life care.

4. Appointing a Health Care Surrogate:

While not mandatory, Florida law allows individuals to appoint a health care surrogate to make medical decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated. This surrogate should be someone you trust implicitly and who understands your wishes regarding healthcare treatment.

What are the requirements for a valid living will in Florida? 

To be considered valid in Florida, a living will must meet certain requirements:

  • The creator must be of sound mind at the time of signing.
  • The document must be signed voluntarily, without coercion or duress.
  • Signatures must be witnessed by two individuals who are not beneficiaries of the creator’s estate, not directly involved in the creator’s healthcare, and not related to the creator by blood, marriage, or adoption.

An estate planning attorney can help you make sure your living will is valid and will be followed.

Does a living will expire? 

While a living will does not expire in Florida, it’s essential to review and update the document periodically to reflect any changes in your medical preferences or life circumstances. Life events such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child may warrant revisions to ensure your living will accurately reflects your current wishes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What will happen if I don’t have a living will?

If you don’t have a living will in place, medical decisions about your care may fall to your family members or healthcare providers. Without clear instructions from you, these decisions may create uncertainty or lead to disagreements among your loved ones. Moreover, medical interventions and treatments may not align with your preferences or values. Having a living will ensures that your healthcare wishes are known and respected, even if you are unable to communicate them yourself.

How will my medical provider know about my living will?

It’s essential to communicate the existence of your living will to your medical providers. You can provide them with a copy of the document, and many healthcare facilities allow you to include information about your living will in your medical records. Additionally, you can appoint a healthcare surrogate or power of attorney who can advocate for your wishes and ensure that healthcare providers are aware of your living will if you are unable to do so yourself.

Do I have to tell my family what’s in my living will?

While you’re not legally required to disclose the contents of your living will to your family members, it’s often beneficial to do so. Open communication about your healthcare preferences can alleviate potential conflicts and ensure that your loved ones understand your wishes. Discussing your living will with your family allows them to provide support and advocacy for your decisions, particularly if they are tasked with making medical decisions on your behalf.

What types of details should be included in my living will?

Your living will should include clear and specific instructions regarding your healthcare preferences and end-of-life care. Some details to consider include:

Preferences for life-sustaining treatments such as mechanical ventilation, artificial nutrition and hydration, and CPR.

  • Instructions for pain management and palliative care.
  • Preferences for organ donation.
  • Guidance on specific medical conditions or scenarios, such as coma or terminal illness.
  • Appointment of a healthcare surrogate or power of attorney to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated.

It’s essential to be as detailed as possible in your living will to ensure that your wishes are accurately communicated and followed by your healthcare providers and loved ones. Regularly reviewing and updating your living will ensures that it reflects your current healthcare preferences and life circumstances.

In addition to a living will, what other documents should I consider preparing?

Alongside a living will, there are several other important documents to consider as part of your comprehensive estate plan and advance care planning:

  • Healthcare Power of Attorney (HCPA): This document appoints a trusted individual to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. It allows your healthcare surrogate to advocate for your healthcare preferences and ensures that your wishes are followed.
  • Financial Power of Attorney: This document designates an agent to manage your financial affairs if you become incapacitated. It grants them the authority to handle financial transactions, pay bills, and manage investments on your behalf.
  • HIPAA Authorization: This authorization allows designated individuals to access your medical records and communicate with healthcare providers on your behalf, ensuring continuity of care and decision-making.
  • Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order: If you wish to refuse certain life-sustaining treatments, such as CPR, in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest, you may consider a DNR order in addition to your living will.

What’s the difference between a living will and an advance directive?

The terms “living will” and “advance directive” are often used interchangeable. However, some practitioners recognize a subtle distinction between the two:

A living will specifically addresses your preferences for medical treatment and end-of-life care if you are incapacitated and unable to communicate your wishes. It typically outlines your desires regarding life support, resuscitation, and other medical interventions.

An advance directive is a broader term that encompasses various documents, including a living will, healthcare power of attorney, and other instructions regarding medical care and treatment preferences. In addition to outlining specific healthcare preferences, an advance directive may appoint a healthcare surrogate or agent to make decisions on your behalf and provide guidance for healthcare providers.

Essentially, a living will is a type of advance directive that specifically focuses on your medical treatment preferences in the event of incapacity, while an advance directive may include additional documents and instructions related to healthcare decision-making and surrogate designation.

Call a Living Will Attorney Today. 

At Medley Law Firm, we are experienced in elder law and estate planning. We are committed to making the legal parts of your planning less stressful. Don’t put it off – call us today to prepare your living will or advance directive. 

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Medley Law Firm is an Elder Law, Estate Planning and Probate firm in Pensacola, Florida that offers in-person professional services from Pensacola to Panama City and virtually across the entire state.

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