When Florida lawyers use the term “advance directives”, what do we mean? Advance Directives is the umbrella term that describes documents that you put in place before you become incapacitated that are designed to speak for you if you do become incapacitated.
Twice in the past few weeks we have had clients come in with durable powers of attorney that are more than 10 years old. The durable power of attorney is the legal document that states who you want to handle your non-medical affairs if you are incapacitated and can no longer handle them yourself. Although Florida durable powers of attorney do not legally expire, they can become less effective due to changes in the law.
The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (“NAELA”) has designated May as National Elder Law Month in part to facilitate discussions about long-term care planning and spotlight the steps involved in putting a long-term care plan in place.
When a health condition or injury renders Florida adults no longer able to handle their own affairs, they need a representative to step in and speak for them. Usually there are two types of representatives. One representative handles medical issues and one representative handles financial issues. The representative handling financial issues can either be an agent under a durable power of attorney, a trustee under a trust or in cases of a failure to plan ahead, a guardian appointed by the court.
Documents that give you the chance to document your health care wishes in case at some point in the future you are unable to state your wishes yourself are called medical advance directives. Two types of medical advance directives are the Living Will and the DNR (Do Not Resuscitate Order). Although they are both advance directives they each have a different job to perform.
If we knew which year the hurricane was going to hit our house, we may decide to buy homeowners insurance only for that particular year and not “waste” our money buying it in other years. However, we don’t know for certain when or even if our homes will be damaged, so we buy homeowners insurance every year “just in case”.
POLST stands for Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. It is a type of advance directive that is designed to give seriously ill patients the ability to say what type of life sustaining treatment they prefer. The options range from comfort care only to full scale interventions.
In general, your health care surrogate handles medical matters if you are not able to handle them yourself and your agent under your durable power of attorney handles your financial and other non medical matters if you are not able to handle them yourself.