What Is the Difference Between a Medical Power Attorney and a Health Care Surrogate?

When you think about estate planning, you likely immediately think of a Will. A Will is, indeed, an important part of every estate plan and each American adult should be encouraged to create one, preferably under the direction of an attorney. However, even though estate plans are usually associated with making arrangements for after one’s passing, they should also include a person’s wishes in situations where they may be alive but unable to personally state their wishes, such as becoming incapacitated, sustaining an injury, or suffering from a sudden medical condition.

Whether you think a similar scenario may happen to you or not, it is strongly advised that you make arrangements which will help your family members or a trusted friend make important medical decisions on your behalf. Such arrangements include appointing a medical power attorney or a health surrogate. In this article, we will explain the difference between these two important roles

Medical Power of Attorney in Florida

Power of attorney is a document that grants a person certain rights to make decisions on behalf of another person should he or she ever become incapacitated and unable to decide for him or herself. In a medical power of attorney form, you specify a person, along with their alternatives, who will make decisions regarding medical treatments and similar matters on your behalf if you ever become incapacitated. The maker of a power of attorney document is called a principal, whereas a person designated to make decisions on behalf of the principal is called an agent.

According to Florida law, a regular power of attorney document becomes ineffective if the principal becomes incapacitated. In order for the document to remain in force, it must be created as a durable power of attorney.

Health Care Surrogate in Florida

A health care surrogate is a person designated to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are ever unable to make them yourself. The key difference between a health care surrogate and a durable power of attorney is that the latter can give the agent authority to make decisions going beyond health care and medical choices. A surrogate, on the other hand, only has authority when it comes to medical issues. Additionally, a durable power of attorney comes into effect immediately, whereas the power of a surrogate takes effect only when a medical doctor decides that a person has become incapacitated.

Do You Have a Question Related to Estate Planning? Contact Us

As shown in this article, estate planning can seem complicated. It takes a professional to be able to navigate through the maze of legal nuances related to Wills, trusts, and probate. The stakes are high – your legacy and the financial security of your family – you surely don’t want to make any mistake or omit any important detail in your estate plan; and without a thorough knowledge of the law, it may be challenging. That’s why we strongly recommend and invite you to contact the law offices of Luis E. Barreto & Associates, P.A. We provide a wide range of estate planning and probate services to clients throughout South Florida and we will be delighted to help you.

Written by Luis E. Barreto

Luis E. Barreto

Luis is a probate and guardianship litigator with over 23 years of experience in the field. Determination of heirs, will contests, breaches of fiduciary duty, removal of personal representatives, guardians and trustees are just some of the types of litigation he addresses. In addition, he administers non-contested estates and guardianships.