Often an overlooked aspect in many people’s lives, estate planning is the key to guaranteeing your wishes and legacy will be carried out as you wanted. Accordingly, it is crucial not only to think about one’s estate and family upon death but also to prepare for an event of incapacitation or severe health problems.
In this regard, both living wills and health care surrogate designations provide valuable legal tools for naming a reliable person to act on your behalf if you become physically or mentally incapacitated to handle your own medical affairs.
Still, what are the differences between a living will and a health care surrogate designation? Keep reading to find out.
Last Testament vs. Living Will – Why You Should Not Confuse Both Terms
Many people tend to confuse between wills and living wills. While both are part of a comprehensive estate plan, they serve inherently different purposes.
Normally referred to as a will, a last will and testament is the document in which the testator (individual creating the will) outlines all specific instructions to govern the transfer of ownership of his/her property to the chosen beneficiaries upon death.
The last testament becomes effective upon the death of the testator.
On the other hand, living wills are legal documents containing specific determinations regarding which medical treatments you would or would not accept in case you could not decide for yourself.
Therefore, the scope of a living will encompass several decisions regarding life-sustaining medical treatments, such as the usage of:
- Pain management medication
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
- Tube feeding
- Antiviral medications
- Mechanical ventilation
- Palliative care
- Organ donations
- Mechanical ventilation
A well-drafted living will should address as many end-of-life decisions as possible. Hence, it is crucial to consult with a doctor and an expert attorney to determine the provisions to be included in the document.
How Does a Living Will Differ from a Designation of Healthcare Surrogate in Florida? – Taking a Closer Look
Differently, a health care surrogate designation is a legal document wherein you (the principal) grant another person (the agent) authority to make health care decisions on your behalf.
Accordingly, the scope of a health care surrogate designation varies according to the level of authority granted by the person creating the document. Therefore, the agent’s decisions can be as specific or general as the principal determines.
It is also possible to use a health care surrogate designation to prohibit certain types of medical procedures. As long as the principal is still alive, he/she can expand the document to include other procedures, including experimental treatments.
Living Will vs. Designation of Healthcare Surrogate – Is it Possible to Avoid Guardianship?
While it is possible to avoid guardianship using a well-structured estate plan containing both a living will and a health care surrogate designation, many cases will legally require a guardian appointed by the court regardless of the existence of other legal tools.
For example, if an incapacitated person refuses to remain living in an assisted living facility or nursing home, only a guardian with authority granted by the court can authorize the facility to restrain the incapacitated individual and prevent him/her from leaving the premises.