If you are a Floridian reaching an advanced age, you may have thought about drafting a living will. Without the proper planning, you could be left out of making your own medical decisions simply because you did not anticipate needing a living will. These important documents help individuals of all ages protect their health care rights, providing information about advance directives and a variety of other preferences.

When you add health care directives to your existing estate plan, you will need two documents: a living will and a health care power of attorney, also known as a health care proxy. The first document includes information about your preferences in the event that you are medically incapacitated. The second designates a person to act on your behalf if such a situation occurs. Older Floridians with chronic conditions may also consider including do-not-resuscitate orders in their advance directives. Those DNR documents are best suited for individuals with serious health conditions that do not want to face ongoing invasive medical care.

One additional document that is not widely publicized is the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. This document is currently available in 16 states, but it should spread throughout the nation in a short period of time. The POLST is a powerful document that translates your exact end-of-life preferences into medical orders that cannot be violated.

Even though you can fill some of these forms out on your own, it is always best to consult a qualified attorney to help you correctly submit the documents that will determine your end-of-life care. Elder law attorneys throughout the state of Florida can help older planners learn more about their legal rights and responsibilities. Clients should not take a chance with their living will; instead, a qualified attorney should be consulted to provide comprehensive estate planning guidance.

Luis E. Barreto