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What is a living will in Florida?

Floridians may have heard the estate planning term "living will." Some may be a bit confused by the phrase and how it differs from what they may think of as a "regular" will. First, it is important to understand that a "living will" isn't really a will, in the technical sense. That is why the term is increasingly being replaced with the terms "health care advanced directive" or "health care proxy." These are the terms recognized by Florida law and they make more sense and differentiate an important document from a last will and testament.

A living will or advanced directive, rather than dealing with one's property, deals with what measures you wish to have taken to prolong your life in the event that you are incapacitated and unable to legally consent to treatment. These directives might include feeding tubes, respirators or other processes that are intended to prolong your life. It would not generally include medications or other interventions meant to provide pain relief or comfort. A health care proxy is a document that designates someone to make these medical decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself.

In Florida, a health care advanced directive is valid if it is signed by a competent adult in front of two witnesses, who also sign the document. One of the witnesses must someone other than a spouse or blood relative. An advanced directive can be revoked by destroying the document itself, by a separate signed and dated writing, an oral statement of intent to revoke or a new advanced directive that differs materially from the original. Furthermore, a health care proxy that designates a spouse is revoked if the parties get divorced. To better understand what goes into these documents, it may be a good idea to talk with your doctor and consult with an experienced estate planning attorney.

Source: 2010 Florida Statutes, "Title XLIV Civil Rights, Chapter 765 Health Care Advance Directives," accessed Dec. 29, 2014

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