J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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Florida’s Health Care Surrogate Act

Advancements in medicine and technology have meant that people now are living longer than ever before. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average life expectancy amongst people in the United States is more than 78 years. While it is good news that people are living longer, old age can come with new challenges.

It is no secret that as a person becomes older, his or her body deteriorates, but so too can the mind. Older people are more prone to having cognitive problems, like dementia, which can keep them from taking care of themselves and making important life decisions. For this reason, many people choose to plan for this possibility when they are younger. Advanced estate planning tools can help people make decisions for later in their lives, just in case they are unable to when the time comes.

People in Winter Haven and Lakeland may think that estate planning is mostly just about figuring out how to handle a person’s assets and business affairs when he or she dies. However, it can also be used to address other important decisions in life, like the kind of medical care that the person wants should he or she become incapacitated later in life.

Under Florida’s Health Care Surrogate Act, a competent adult can make advance health care decisions. The law allows a person to instruct doctors, in advance, about the kinds of life-prolonging procedures that he or she may or may not want. Alternatively, the law allows people to give someone else the power of attorney to make these kinds of health care decisions for them should it become necessary.

Few people enjoy the prospect of getting to a point in life where they are unable to make decisions for themselves. However, this does happen to some people, and by making health care decisions earlier in life, or appointing a surrogate through a health care proxy, it can relieve loved ones from having to agonize over these kinds of difficult decisions.

Estate plans can encompass a lot more than just how to deal with people's assets after they pass away. A thorough estate plan can also ensure that a person makes important health and life choices while he or she is competent to do so.

Source: 2015 Florida Statutes, “Health Care Advance Directives,” accessed Sept. 1, 2015

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