ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS

LIVING WILL – The Living Will contains your instructions, so that in the event that you are in an “end stage” condition, or a permanent vegetative state, you let your loved ones and caregivers know whether or not you wish to be kept artificially alive by machines, or to be removed from the machines and able to die with dignity.

DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY – In your Durable Power of Attorney, you nominate a person, who will have the power to make all non-medical decisions for you. They can open your mail, pay your bills, manage your bank accounts and run your business. Everything that you could have done, the appointed attorney can do for you. Of course, you can make the nomination as narrow or as broad as you choose.

DESIGNATION OF HEALTH CARE SURROGATE – The designation of health care surrogate is like the power of attorney, except that it allows you to designate someone to make medical decisions for you in the event that you are incapacitated. This is not about “end of life” decisions, but the more basic medical decisions that you may be unable to make on your own. Without a Durable Power of Attorney and Designation of Health Care Surrogate, then if you become incapacitated, you might be subject to a “Guardianship.” A Guardianship is a process in which the court appoints someone to make decisions for you. It can be extremely costly, and burdensome on you and your family.

AUTHORIZATION FOR RELEASE OF PROTECTED HEALTH INFORMATION (HIPAA) – The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a Federal law that required the establishment of national standards to protect the privacy of patients. While you want health care providers and insurance companies to protect your medical information, the penalties associated with violating HIPAA often make health care providers and insurance companies extra cautious about sharing medical information with anyone but you as the patient. For this reason, the execution of an Authorization for Release of Protected Health Information (HIPAA) is an instrumental estate planning document to be included in completing your estate plan.

STATEMENT OF INTENT – FUNERAL AND BURIAL INSTRUCTIONS – The most effective method to insuring that your loved ones know your funeral wishes is to complete a Statement of Intent – Funeral and Burial Instructions which clearly defines your wishes and appoints a “Legally Authorized Person” as defined by the Florida Statutes. While a Statement of Intent is an important estate plan document for all individuals, a Statement of Intent is especially important for individuals whom have no surviving spouse or children.  This document is essential for non-married couples as a non-spouse has no rights or authority to arrange for funeral and burial services.

DECLARATION NAMING PRE-NEED GUARDIAN FOR MINORS – If you have minor children, another essential document to your estate plan is the Declaration Naming Pre-Need Guardian for Minors. Parent(s) have the right under the Florida Statutes to nominate a preneed guardian of the person or property or both of the parent’s minor child or children by making a written declaration that names a guardian to serve if the minor’s last surviving parent becomes incapacitated or dies. You also have the right to name an alternate to the guardian to act if the designated preneed guardian refuses to serve, renounces appointment, dies or becomes incapacitated after the death of the last surviving parent of the minor. This document will assist in insuring that a guardian of your nomination is appointed by the Court to manage both the medical needs and financial needs of your minor child or minor children should the last surviving parent become incapacitated or dies.  Remember, the court does not know which family members you would want raising your children.

For more information relative to Wills and Trusts which are other important estate planning documents, please refer to the Wills and Trusts Section on the Home Page of this site.