A Florida living will is the written declaration of your intentions for the kind and amount of medical treatment you desire to preserve your life. The point of the living will in Florida is to clarify what you want in a situation where you cannot speak and cannot communicate. It is called a living will because it is a directive that takes effect while you are living.
Most often, the living will states under what conditions your life should be prolonged artificially if you are in a vegetative state or have an end state condition. If you lack capacity or cannot communicate, your living will (which you signed prior to this condition) will express to your physician and family the extent you want continued medical treatment to prolong your life.
A doctor will follow the direction of your living will only when you lack the capacity to make your own medical decisions. Legally, capacity is the legal term for not being able to understand the nature and consequences of your treatment and decisions. Or, you may not be incapacitated but you may lack the ability to communicate —unable to speak, write, gesture, and so on.
Living Will Requirements
Under Florida law, a living will must:
- State how and when life-sustaining treatment should be provided or withheld.
- Be signed by the maker.
- Be signed by two witnesses.
- Be signed by everyone in the same room.
Do You Have a Living Will?
When you go to a hospital for a medical procedure, they often 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 not provide the actual document to the hospital. Instead, you may want to give the living will to a family member who is taking care of you. The family member can decide when it is best to give the living will to the hospital facility.
FAQs About Living Wills
What’s the difference between a will and a living will?
A will is the written instructions for distributing your probate estate (your assets upon death). Despite using the word “will,” a living will is separate from a regular will. Instead, a living will is nothing more the written instructions for when to withhold certain medical treatment in the event of your incapacity.
Do you need an attorney to make a living will?
Florida law does not require that an attorney draft your living will. There are simple living will forms available online. An attorney can help you explain options to add to your living will.