Americans are living longer than ever. Many Florida residents are now enjoying healthy lives well into their 70’s and 80’s. With longer lives come more time and freedom to engage in enjoyable pursuits and to spend time with loved ones.
However, individuals may also understand that health and wellness can stop at any point in time. An unexpected illness or a serious accident may render a healthy elder individual unable to communicate for themselves or to make decisions about their own care. When these unfortunate incidents happen, their loved ones may be left to guess what they would want in terms of care and end of life planning.
Durable power of attorney documents can answer some of these questions for families who are caught in the unfortunate situation of having elderly loved ones become medically incapacitated. This post will introduce 3 important facts readers should know about durable power of attorney documents in Florida. While no part of this post is provided as legal advice, all readers should be prepared to take their questions about durable powers of attorney to their trusted elder law attorneys.
Fact #1: Durable power of attorney documents are legally binding
A durable power of attorney document is a legally binding device. When a person names another individual to make important healthcare decisions for them in the event of the document creator’s incapacitation, the proper execution of the document will make it enforceable under the law. In Florida, durable powers of attorney can be created by competent adults, and are validated through the creator’s signature in the presence of two witnesses.
Fact #2: Durable power of attorney documents can be revoked
Life is full of change. When an individual first executes their durable power of attorney, they may select a spouse or other close friend to serve as the party who will make decisions about their care. However, time can erode relationships and not everyone who has a durable power of attorney may want their named individual to remain in control of their important health care decisions. Durable power of attorney documents can be updated to reflect changes in relationships so that individuals feel confident about their incapacity plans.
Fact #3: Durable power of attorney documents can be included in estate plans
Though estate planning can happen at any age, many aging Floridians do not start the process until they are arriving at their retirement years. Their needs may be very different than those of individuals with young children, and they can benefit from developing their estate plans with attorneys who work specifically with elderly clients. A durable power of attorney can be included in an elder law estate plan and can help protect an individual from the unlikely but possible problem of their incapacitation.
Incapacity is a difficult topic but one that should be included in all estate plans. For elderly individuals, incapacity planning can help protect their health care interests and ensure their desires for end-of-life care are respected. A trusted attorney can work with their client to make their estate planning desires into realities.