Undoubtedly, life is unpredictable. Therefore, everyone should have legal tools in place in the event of mental or physical incapacitation to protect their estate and guarantee their loved ones’ peace of mind.
In this regard, two of the most popular solutions used in Florida include powers of attorney and health care surrogate designations. While both terms are widely used in the estate planning jargon, very few people know what they actually mean.
In this article, you will find out an in-depth comparison between health care surrogate designations and powers of attorney in Florida.
Health Care Surrogate vs Power of Attorney in Florida – Understanding The Basics
Both health care surrogate designations and powers of attorney are part of a well-structured estate planning strategy. However, contrary to popular belief, these tools are not the same.
A power of attorney is a legal document used to grant authority to a trusted person regarding all your personal and financial decision-making. It is particularly useful if you become incapacitated, or even if you are unavailable to perform.
For instance, one could prepare and sign a power of attorney granting someone authority to close a deal on his/her behalf.
Similarly, a health care surrogate designation is also a legal document to grant someone else power to act on your behalf in case of incapacitation. Nonetheless, this estate planning tool is limited strictly to medical decisions.
Power of Attorney in Florida – Taking a Closer Look
When signing a power of attorney, the principal (person making the document) authorizes a person to act as his/her agent. In essence, the agent will step in the principal’s shoes and handle any specific affairs outlined in the document on his/her behalf.
Typically, a power of attorney includes all affairs related to the principal’s everyday life, such as paying bills, handling banking operations, dealing with insurance companies, managing investment(s), etc.
It is crucial noting that the scope of the agent’s authority is defined by the type of power of attorney and the level of authority granted by the principal in the document’s instructions.
For example, a durable power of attorney grants the agent continuous authority to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
Another example are non-durable powers of attorney, which are not used for estate planning but for everyday needs, such as granting a professional investor non-durable authority to manage your portfolio on daily basis.
While it is technically possible to use a power of attorney to designate an agent to handle the principal’s medical decision-making, there is a more suitable legal tool for this purpose – the health surrogate designation.
Health Care Surrogate Designation- Taking a Closer Look
A health care surrogate designation is a legal document used to designate a person as your surrogate upon a specific event (e.g., incapacitation).
This designation permits the surrogate to handle a wide array of medical decisions, including talking to doctors on the principal’s behalf, managing medical care, and even making medical decisions if the principal cannot do so.
Since 2015, it is possible to use a health care surrogate designation to grant a person immediate power to act on your behalf. Therefore, as long as you still have capacity, your decisions will prevail over the surrogate.
If the principal becomes incapacitated or unable to handle his/her own medical decisions, the surrogate will control all the related decision-making – including the power to withdraw, withhold, or request life-sustaining treatments.