Jacksonville Probate and Estate Planning Lawyers
Powers of Attorney
Powers of Attorney, Living Wills and Designations of Health Care Surrogate
are documents known as “advance directives.” A power of attorney
is a written document that allows you to appoint another person to handle
your affairs while you are unavailable or unable to do so. The person
you appoint is referred to as an “Attorney-in-Fact.” What
authority is granted will depend on the specific language of the power
of attorney. A person giving a power of attorney may make it very broad
or may limit it to certain specific acts.
There are three common types of powers of attorney: (1) Limited; (2) General;
and (3) Durable. The first two types expire if you become mentally disabled
- the time when you need help the most. The third, a durable power of
attorney, continues to operate even if you become unable to manage your
own personal and financial affairs, with some exceptions.
As long as you are mentally competent, you can revoke a durable power
of attorney whenever you like.
While a durable power of attorney can be a helpful tool, it is also an
extremely powerful document and you should always consult with an attorney
so that you fully understand how the document works and what hazards may
Among the important considerations you will have to make is who you will
choose to act as your “Attorney-in-Fact.” You don’t
have to choose a lawyer to be your “Attorney-in-Fact”, but
it is important to select someone you trust implicitly. The relative or
friend you choose will be acting on your behalf regarding your financial
or health issues. You need to choose someone who won’t abuse the
powers you grant to them and will look out for your best interests.
A durable power of attorney is one of the most powerful documents that
you may ever sign. For that reason, you should always seek the assistance
of a skilled attorney.
A living will is a document which tells your doctor or other health care
providers whether or not you want life-prolonging treatments or procedures
administered to you if you are in a terminal condition, a persistent vegetative
state or an endstage condition. It is called a “living will”
because it takes effect while you are still living.
Often people confuse a living will with a Will or a living trust, but
they are three completely different types of documents. Wills and living
trusts are financial documents which allow you to plan for the distribution
of your financial assets and property after your death. A living will
only deals with medical issues while you are still living.
A Florida living will goes into effect when (1) your doctor has a copy
of it, and (2) your doctor has concluded that you are no longer able to
make your own health care decisions, and (3) your doctor and another doctor
have determined that you are in a terminal condition, a persistent vegetative
state or an end-stage condition.
Life prolonging treatments are treatments or procedures that are not expected
to cure your terminal condition or make you better. They only prolong
dying. Examples are mechanical respirators which help you breathe and
kidney dialysis which clears your body of wastes.
A living will is not the same as a “Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)”
order. While a Florida living will covers almost all types of life-prolonging
treatments and procedures a “Do Not Resuscitate” order covers
two types of life-threatening situations. A DNR order is a document prepared
by your doctor at your direction and placed in your medical records. It
states that if you suffer cardiac arrest (your heart stops beating) or
respiratory arrest (you stop breathing), your health care providers are
not to try and revive you by any means.
Designation of Health Care Surrogate
A designation of Health Care Surrogate is a legal document which allows
you to appoint another person to make medical decisions for you if you
should become temporarily or permanently unable to make those decisions
yourself. You can appoint any adult to be your surrogate, but you should
select a person or persons who are knowledgeable about your wishes, in
whom you have trust and confidence, and who knows how you feel about health
care. You should discuss the matter with the person you have chosen and
make sure that they understand and agree to accept the responsibility.
An attorney with experience in estate planning and probate can help you
decide what advance directives are right for you.