How to Write a Florida Living Will

By Heather Frances J.D.

When you are no longer capable of making your health care decisions, your physicians can rely on documents you create now to guide your treatment. Chapter 765 of the Florida Statutes addresses these documents, called advance directives. Sections 765.303 and 765.304 give a suggested form for your living will and instructions on how to enact it.

Living Will

A living will is a type of advance directive, given orally or in writing, that tells your physicians and loved ones what kinds of medical treatment you want or do not want if you become unable to make your own decisions in the future. For example, a living will can direct your health care if you are in a coma or unable to make decisions because of diseases like Alzheimer’s or dementia. By creating a living will, you are making decisions now to cover situations you might encounter in the future.

Writing Your Living Will

In Section 765.303, Florida law provides a suggested form for your living will. This form gives you an opportunity to decide when you want the living will to take effect. The Florida form states that you don’t want life-prolonging procedures when they would only prolong the process of dying. However, you can tailor your living will to meet your health care wishes, such as indicating what types of treatment you want your physicians to perform and treatments you do not want. For example, your living will could indicate that you want artificial nutrition provided but do not want artificial respiration.

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Health Care Surrogate

Florida’s form also provides a place for you to designate a health care surrogate. Your health care surrogate is someone who can make medical decisions for you while you are incapacitated. Your surrogate must make health care decisions he thinks you would have made if you were capable of making medical decisions. You can also designate an alternate surrogate to act if your original surrogate is unable or unwilling to make your decisions.

Finalizing Your Document

At least two witnesses must observe you signing your living will, or two witnesses must hear you give your oral living will. At least one of your witnesses must not be your spouse or a blood relative, and neither witness can be your health care surrogate. Living wills do not need to be notarized in Florida. Once your living will is signed, you should give a copy to your health care surrogate if you named one. You should also make your physicians and loved ones know what your living will says, and you may wish to give them a copy.

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Difference Between Living Will & Durable Power of Attorney

At some point, perhaps toward the end of your life, you may need help taking care of your finances, making medical decisions or communicating your wishes to your physicians and family. A living will, power of attorney for health care or power of attorney for finances can direct your health care or give others authority to act on your behalf.

Does a Surgeon Have to Tell You to Do a Power of Attorney If You Are to Have Heart Surgery?

If you are scheduled for serious or risky surgery, it is a good idea to discuss the merits of an advance healthcare directive with your physician. One option is a durable power of attorney that authorizes a trusted friend to make decisions on your behalf while you are incapacitated; another is a living will. However, your surgeon cannot obligate you to execute either legal document.

Is a Living Will Valid After Death?

When you become unable to make your own medical decisions, someone else must make those decisions for you. A living will communicates your wishes to medical providers and trusted friends and family when you can’t. Since a living will does not provide directions for what happens after a patient dies, it is not valid after death.

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