Florida residents who are looking into estate planning may be interested in the the reasons for having a living will. This particular document can be very helpful should the person become permanently incapacitated through illness. A living will is an important part of every comprehensive estate plan. This document, which is not actually a will in the traditional sense, contains instructions regarding a person’s medical treatment preferences should they be unable to communicate their wishes. This can happen if they are terminally ill, in a coma or otherwise permanently incapacitated.

The living will may contain information about the person’s directives regarding resuscitation, being fed through a tube or whether to have their organs donated should they pass away. This document can order the medical staff to either refrain from using these life-saving techniques or to attempt all medical techniques in order to keep the person alive. In order for the living will to become effective, the person who signed it must subsequently be in a permanent vegetative state or have an illness that they have no chance of surviving.

A durable power of attorney is a separate document that appoints an attorney-in-fact to either ensure that the person’s decisions regarding their treatment are followed or gives the attorney-in-fact the power to use their own judgment in determining treatment options. This power is broader than that given by a living will, since only incapacity, not a terminal illness or vegetative state, is required.

In many cases, having both documents available in order to deal with important health care decisions is best. Because every person’s situation is different, however, this article should not be taken as legal advice. An attorney who has experience in estate planning may be able to assess a client’s situation and determine the best way to enforce future health care decisions.

Luis E. Barreto