The following tip sheets have been prepared by the Claude Pepper Elder Law Clinic, a holistic, interdisciplinary clinic focused on boosting the wellbeing and resilience of low-income older adults through legal advocacy and community education. Students enrolled in the clinic learn the basics of elder law while also working directly on cases and policy issues.
Every competent adult has the right to make a written declaration commonly known as a “Living Will.” The purpose of this document is to direct the provision, the withholding or withdrawal of life prolonging procedures in the event one should have a terminal condition. The suggested form of this instrument has been provided by the Legislature within Florida Statutes Section 765.303. In Florida, the definition of “life prolonging procedures” has been expanded by the Legislature to include the provision of food and water to terminally ill patients.
Under Florida law, a Living Will must be signed by its maker in the presence of two witnesses, at least one of whom is neither the spouse nor a blood relative of the maker. If the maker is physically unable to sign the Living Will, one of the witnesses can sign in the presence and at the direction of the maker.
Any competent adult may also designate authority to a Health Care Surrogate to make all health care decisions during any period of incapacity. During the maker’s incapacity, the Health Care Surrogate has the duty to consult expeditiously, with appropriate health care providers. The Surrogate also provides informed consent and makes only health care decisions for the maker, which he or she believes the maker would have made under the circumstances if the maker were capable of making such decisions. If there is no indication of what the maker would have chosen, the Surrogate may consider the maker’s best interest in deciding on a course of treatment.
Under Florida law, designation of a Health Care Surrogate should be made through a written document, and should be signed in the presence of two witnesses, at least one of whom is neither the spouse nor a blood relative of the maker. The person designated as Surrogate cannot act as a witness to the signing of the document.