J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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What is a health proxy?

It is important for Florida residents to think about the future. Not only their short term future, but what should happen to them if a major medical emergency occurs. While thinking about medical issues and death can be scary for many Florida residents, it's a necessary part of life. Without the right estate planning, people can place an unnecessary burden on their family.

People may think that estate planning is just financial, however, this is not correct. An important part to any estate plan is having a plan in place for medical emergencies. Through a advanced directive people can lay out their medical wishes should they not be in a place to make the decisions themselves.

If people fail to plan ahead a medical emergency, the state of Florida will allow a health proxy to make the decision for the person. This applies in situations where you are unable, willing or competent to make decisions regarding your medical care.

Under section 765.401 of Florida's statutes, a health proxy will be appointed if an advanced directive was not signed or if the person named to make decisions in the directive is not available. Under this section, a variety of other people can be allowed to make healthcare decisions. First, anyone appointed by the court as a guardian will be named the proxy. If no one has been appointed by the court, your spouse, adult children, adult siblings, other adult relative or close friend -- in that order -- can be appointed. Finally, if no one else is available, a trained social worker can be named.

In these cases, a proxy is supposed to make decisions for you based on what the person believes you would have wanted under these circumstances. However, clear and convincing evidence must be presented by the proxy in order to end life-prolonging procedures.

Healthcare decisions can be complicated and vary based on someone's needs, therefore this post cannot provide specific legal advice. An attorney can help Florida residents, however, make difficult estate planning decisions.

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