A living will, also called an advanced directive, is a binding legal document that allows you to express your wishes regarding medical treatment in case you become incapacitated and can no longer speak for yourself. Living wills are legal in Florida as long as they comply with state statutory requirements.
Florida law also recognizes a form of medical power of attorney called a designation of health care surrogate, which allows you to name an individual to make health care decisions on your behalf. These two instruments enable you to make choices now about what kind of medical care you would want to receive in the future. Drawing up these legal documents before your incapacitation obliges health care providers and family members to honor your wishes.
Florida's Requirements for a Valid Living Will
Any individual who is 18 or older and mentally competent can make a living will. You must sign the document before two witnesses, who cannot be your spouse or a blood relative. The same requirements apply to the designation of health care surrogate, with the added caveat that your named surrogate cannot be a witness. You can include both your living will and surrogate designation in one document, as in this sample form from the Florida Bar Association. The designation can also be more detailed, as seen in this form, also provided by the Florida Bar.
When you have a valid living will, health care providers and facilities must abide by it. You should give copies to your primary care physician, your attorney (if you have one), and your surrogate. In addition, keep a copy with your other important papers, and make sure your spouse and other close relatives know where to find it. Some people also like to keep a card in their wallets stating that they have an advanced directive and noting its location.
Choosing a Surrogate
Your surrogate is responsible for authorizing medical professionals to provide or withhold care in accordance with your living will. Therefore, the best choice for a health care surrogate is someone you trust to carry out your wishes, even if those wishes go against the outcome they may desire.
Typically, a surrogate is a spouse, partner, relative, or close friend. Be sure the person you designate is willing to accept the obligation, and talk with them about the care you want to receive. Note that if you name your spouse, getting a divorce automatically revokes the designation.
Revoking a Living Will
Florida law allows you to amend or revoke your living will at any time, so long as you remain mentally competent. You can revoke your will in Florida in the following ways:
- By a signed, dated writing
- By physically striking through or destroying the document
- By orally expressing the intent to amend or revoke
- By creating a new, subsequent living will that is inconsistent with the previous one
While destroying this document does cancel it, formally revoking it in writing is the better option. It's important to note that only you can revoke a living will and that no one can do it in your place. You must also properly communicate that you are revoking your living will to your health care provider and surrogate(s).
When a Living Will Takes Effect
Your living will takes effect only after you become mentally incapacitated and have a terminal or end-stage condition or are in a permanent vegetative state. In addition, your primary physician and another consulting physician must determine that you have no reasonable medical probability of recovery.
A living will or designation of health care surrogate is a part of any well-considered estate plan. An effective estate plan, in addition to disposing of property, can also name a guardian for your children and delineate your health care wishes, all in an effort to make the circumstances of your passing easier for your loved ones.
This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.