There are two must-have legal documents that every adult age 18 and older (yes, even college students!) should sign as a part of their estate plans: a durable power of attorney and a health care directive.
A Florida durable power of attorney is a legal document that grants someone the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf.
The authority granted to your agent in a durable power of attorney is typically used in the event that you become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for yourself. In fact, the word "durable" in durable power of attorney specifically means that the power granted in the power of attorney is still effective even when you become incapacitated.
In Florida, your designated agent's authority takes effect immediately when you legally sign the document. Your agent's authority is NOT contingent upon your future incapacity. Those types of "springing" powers of attorney that are legal in other states, are not valid in Florida.
Your Florida durable power of attorney remains effective until you revoke it, amend it, or die. Yes, that's right. Your durable power of attorney "dies" when you do. In other words, your designated agent loses all of his/her authority to act under your power of attorney when you die.
Florida health care directives are also important for every adult Floridian to have in place.
Florida health care directives should at a minimum include what we call in Florida, a "designation of health care surrogate." This is essentially a medical power of attorney in which you designate someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make your own health care decisions.
Unlike a financial durable power of attorney in Florida, you can specify that your health care agent's authority in your Designation of Health Care Surrogate only takes effect when you are deemed incapacitated by your doctor to make your own medical decisions.
Florida health care directives might also include a Living Will--essentially a "pull the plug" directive.
If you sign a Living Will, you are making the decision in advance that if you are incapacitated and all measures have been exhausted to keep your body alive without artificial measures and there is no reasonable chance of your recovery from such condition, that under those circumstances, you would NOT want to be kept alive on artificially. In other words, "let me go" under those circumstances.
A Florida Living Will is different from a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) directive in which you are essentially saying in advance that no matter what happens, you do NOT want to be revived or your life saved under any circumstances.
A Florida DNR form must be obtained from and/or signed off on by your physician. This is not a medical document you would obtain from your estate planning attorney.
The final Florida medical health care directive is an Organ Donor form, if desired.
Both a Florida durable power of attorney and designation of health care surrogate are essential documents for all Florida adults, regardless of your age or health status. By being proactive and signing these documents now, you are legally saying in advance WHO YOU TRUST to make important financial and medical decisions for yourself.
With a durable power of attorney and designation of health care surrogate, you are not giving up any of your legal rights. You are instead essentially saying, "In addition to me, I trust this person or people to make financial and medical decisions on my behalf."
Of course, our estate planning attorneys always include these important Florida legal documents as a part of our client's comprehensive estate plans.
But now, you have another convenient option to craft cost-effective Florida Durable Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives on your own using our new DIY platform!
We have added a blue button at the top right-hand corner of each page on our website entitled "ONLINE DOCUMENTS." Clicking this button will take you to the page on our website to learn more about this convenient DIY option for crafting your own cost-effective Florida Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Directives, powered by our partner, Aturna®.