The contents and nature of your estate plan are deeply personal and unique to your situation; the plan for a family member or, even, your own spouse will be different than the one for you. A Last Will and Testament is a good starting point, but many Floridians need more forms to have a truly effective estate plan. One form that is important for the vast majority of estate planners is the advance directive, sometimes referred to specifically as the advance healthcare directive.


The purpose of an advance healthcare directive for estate planners is to empower a representative, referred to as a surrogate, to make decisions about medical care you receive when you become incapacitated. When you lose capacity, you no longer have the ability to make decisions for yourself. Not only do you need to name a trusted individual, like a son or daughter, as a surrogate, but you should also clearly communicate your wishes to him or her. For example, is there a certain point that you wish to not receive resuscitation? These are painful, but necessary, situations to consider before the time comes.

Another thing advance healthcare directives can accomplish is to allow your surrogate to receive medical information about you. HIPAA and other laws restrict the flow of certain identifiable information to protect the privacy of patients, so naming a healthcare surrogate is important in ensuring that he or she gets the information needed to make an informed decision. Your attorney will be able to advise you on signing separate HIPAA release documents as part of your advance directive.


If you are worried about your first surrogate choice losing the capacity to serve, you may name an alternate surrogate. Your alternate surrogate may step up if your first choice is not “reasonably able” to serve, according to Florida law.


Mortality is an uncomfortable topic to broach, but not planning for it can cause immense pain for you and your loved ones. It does require a certain amount of reflection on your part, as well as some educated guesses about whether it is likely that a situation will arise in which you become incapacitated.

Luis E. Barreto & Associates is well-equipped to help you create an estate plan that meets your goals and provides you with peace of mind as you live out your golden years. We offer free initial consultations to all prospective clients. If you are ready to take on your future, we would be honored to provide legal assistance. Call us today at 305-358-1771 to get started.

Luis E. Barreto