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Florida Health Care Surrogate Act Changes Effective October 1, 2015

Posted on: September 21st, 2015
Every state offers some form of health care power of attorney, a document that provides an individual authority over another person’s medical decisions in the event they become incapacitated. The name used to identify the document that provides this authority varies from state to state and includes names such as advance directive, health care proxy, Five Wishes, and in Florida, Designation of Health Care Surrogate. Florida’s Health Care Surrogate Act was recently reformed and important changes go into effect on October 1, 2015.

A Designation of Health Care Surrogate not only provides the surrogate power over medical decisions, but it also provides them with legal authority to receive health information regarding the incapacitated individual. Florida has recognized these documents since 1992, when the Health Care Surrogate Act was passed. The authority granted through surrogate designation forms has remained relatively unchanged over the years. The revisions that go into effect this fall include amendments for:
  • Immediate action. The surrogate will have the power to act immediately under the reformed provisions. Previously, the incapacity of the individual who completed the surrogacy form (the principal) would need to be determined prior to the surrogate taking authority. The immediate power granted under the Act’s new terms will help prevent delay of the principal’s care if their capacity is questionable. 
  • Minor child provision. Parents will have the ability to name a health care surrogate for minor children, which can help ensure care of minor children in the event both parents are incapacitated and unable to make decisions for the children’s care.

Individuals creating or updating their estate plans in Florida should review the new powers granted under the Health Care Surrogate Act reform. Additionally, the surrogate forms are not equivalent to provisions in a Living Will addressing life prolonging procedures. A separate Living Will must be created to address these items. Individuals and families should check with an estate planning attorney to confirm appropriate documents are included in plans. 

By Attorney Samantha Reichle

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