While most of us associate estate planning with ensuring that our assets are distributed in accordance with our exact wishes and in the manner best suited to minimize taxes, the truth is that it encompasses much more.
Indeed, comprehensive estate planning also includes outlining your exact wishes as they relate to health care, such that in the event of your incapacity -- meaning when you are unable to make decisions due to physical or mental changes -- there is no question as to how to proceed and, by extension, no need to pursue costly legal proceedings.
Florida law expressly recognizes the right of competent adults to execute what are known as advanced directives.
For those unfamiliar with advanced directives, they are legally binding instruments that enable people to establish a clear and concise health care plan that will take effect should they become incapacitated.
While those diagnosed with terminal illnesses will often choose to execute advance directives, those who are perfectly healthy also frequently choose to make them part of their estate plan.
In general, there are three types of advance directives recognized in Florida, including living wills, health care surrogate designations and anatomical donations.
The first of these advance directives, the living will, is named as such because it technically takes effect while you are still alive. What it does is enable you to state in very clear terms the circumstances in which you want physicians to provide, withhold or even withdraw health care. Regarding this last point, it is generally applied in the context of life-prolonging procedures.
We will continue to examine the issue of advance directives in future posts, including taking a closer look at health care surrogate designations and anatomical donations. In the meantime, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you have any questions or concerns about this important component of estate planning.