A power of attorney for healthcare is a useful tool to consider along with an estate plan, but this document is sometimes overlooked.
In Florida, a power of attorney for healthcare is also called an advanced directive. It allows a person, called the principal, to appoint another person as his or her healthcare surrogate to make decisions for the principal.
The power of attorney for healthcare is generally activated by a finding of incapacity, unless the principal has chosen to make it effective immediately.
In Florida, the decision about incapacity is made by the principal’s primary or attending physician. Incapacity means that the principal is physically or mentally unable to communicate willful and knowing healthcare decisions.
If the physician concludes that the principal lacks capacity, that determination is entered in the principal’s medical record.
Once the power of attorney is activated, the surrogate can make decisions on the principal’s behalf. As long as the principal is capable of understanding however, the surrogate must keep him or her reasonably informed about those decisions.
The principal retains the right to revoke the power of attorney for healthcare at any time while he or she has capacity.
This can be done by signing a written and dated document which expresses his or her intent to revoke, physically destroying the power of attorney for healthcare document, signing a new designation or expressing his or her intent to revoke verbally.
An experienced attorney can provide guidance about estate planning and accompanying documents, like the power of attorney for healthcare. It’s helpful to have these plans in place in advance of when they may be needed.