A Florida living will is the written declaration of your intentions for the kind and amount of medical treatment you desire. The point of the living will in Florida is to make clear what your intentions are should you be in a situation where you cannot speak and cannot communicate.
It is called a living will because it takes effect while you are living.
When Does a Living Will Take Effect?
A doctor will follow the direction of your living will only when you are unable to make your own medical decisions. Legally, you must lack capacity, which is the legal term for not being able to understand the nature and consequences of your treatment and decisions. Or, you may lack the ability to communicate in any way—no speaking, writing, gestures, head nods, and so on.
If you lack capacity or cannot communicate, your living will (which you signed prior to this condition occurring), will outline to your physician and family whether you do or don’t want certain medical procedures.
Most often the living will states under what conditions you should be kept alive by life-sustaining treatment.
Do You Have a Living Will?
When you go to a hospital for a medical procedure, many times they will ask you, “Do you have a living will?” Sometimes they may want a copy of the living will as well.
While it is OK to tell the medical staff that you have a living will, we often recommend that you do not provide the actual document to the hospital right away.
Instead, you may want to consider having your family member who is taking care of you decide when it is appropriate to give the living will to the facility.
Will vs. Living Will
What’s the difference between a will and a living will? A will is the written instructions for how your estate (your assets upon death) should be distributed. A living will, despite using the word “will,” has nothing to do with a regular will. Instead, a living will is just the written instructions for when to withhold certain medical treatment.
If you have lived in Florida a long time, you may remember the name “Terry Schaivo.” Her family fought over whether she did or did not want to end life-sustaining treatment.
Unfortunately, Terry Shiavo didn’t have a living will, so there was no written declaration of what she wanted. If Terry Shiavo had a living will, you probably would never had known her name.
Florida Living Will Form
The Florida Bar has some links to free form templates for a living will. But the Bar does not take any stance as to whether those forms comply with Florida law.