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The role of living wills and powers of attorney in estate plans

A comprehensive estate plan typically has several different elements that work together as part of the whole. One important component of any estate plan is a living will, sometimes referred to as an advance healthcare directive. In Florida, living wills can ensure that an individual's healthcare wishes are followed in the event they become incapacitated and are unable to communicate those wishes or make medical decisions for themselves.

A living will can instruct medical staff to provide, withhold or withdraw life-saving medical treatment. A living will may also authorize another party, referred to as a health care surrogate or agent, to make healthcare decisions on the incapacitated individual's behalf. Living wills can also set forth any other health care preferences, concerns or directions the individual chooses.

In addition to a living will, an individual may also sign a durable power of attorney to allow a designated person to handle financial and legal concerns if the individual becomes incapacitated. The party granting a power of attorney is known as the principal; the person appointed is known as the attorney in fact. Most people choose an adult child, another relative or a trusted friend as the attorney in fact.

An effective estate plan should include several elements that should all work together and be properly completed and executed. Knowledgeable advice and guidance can help create a cohesive estate plan which can provide important peace of mind for individuals, their loved ones and family members. An experienced Florida estate planning attorney can assist an individual in preparing a plan that meets their needs.

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