There has been much conversation and many discussions in the news surrounding the use of a Living Will during the Coronavirus pandemic. While most statements are correct, others range from mild to dangerous. For example, some claim you will not receive any medical treatment should you have a living will while others state that you will be denied access to a ventilator. Neither of these are true.
As an experienced estate planning attorney office, we feel much of the confusion originates from the fact that the Living Will may be a misunderstood estate planning document. Perhaps the last time this document garnered such attention was right here in Florida with the case of Terry Schiavo in the early 2000s. One of the main reasons why it has recently been in the news again is due to the fact that it can authorize the removal or lack of use of medical life-saving equipment, such as ventilators.
While we know that many families, young and old, have concerns about this estate planning tool, we want you to know that it should not scare you. Instead, let us share with you key information that you can use to educate yourself on this issue and those you love as well.
1. This document only covers end-of-life conditions. Contrary to popular news right now, the Living Will is not a document that takes immediate effect. Yes, the hospital or your doctor may ask if you have one, but this does not mean it will be used immediately. In fact, under the Florida statutes, the Living Will only applies to three distinct medical conditions: End Stage Conditions, Terminal Illnesses, and a Persistent Vegetative State. While these three medical conditions could result during a battle with Covid-19, they do not happen immediately.
2. Create your message to your health care providers and your family. The Living Will is an important estate planning document. You do want to make your medical wishes known for the above three conditions. This will not only help your health care providers know your wishes for your health care, it can greatly help your family as well. It is a tremendous burden for your loved ones to have to make the choice to end life-sustaining treatments, and letting them know what you wish for your care in that event can be a gift at a time they need it the most.
3. Know that it does not rely on a decision-maker. Your Living Will is a personal document. It can be supplied to your health care provider and, while it does work hand-in-hand with your Health Care Surrogate document, it can stand on its own as your instructions for your care in specific situations. Your Health Care Surrogate in your estate planning is an equally important document in this equation as it provides the legal authority for your chosen decision-maker to act for you if you cannot act for yourself.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Your Living Will and your health care planning documents are only a portion of the Florida estate plan you need to protect yourself, your family, and your legacy. We want to help you both understand and create the planning you need. We encourage you not to wait to contact our office so that we may help you today, or at any point in the future.