A health care surrogate is a person with legal authority to make important medical decisions on your behalf in the event you are too sick to do so, or you simply want some assistance with those decisions. With the COVID-19 pandemic devastating communities throughout Florida and the rest of the country, it’s more important than ever to make sure that your health care wishes and preferences are communicated by someone you trust in the event you fall seriously ill and that you have someone that can advocate for you if you are ill.
A health care surrogate is an important pillar of your total estate plan. Here are some frequently asked questions on the subject:
- What does a health care surrogate do? — A health care surrogate is your advocate for making medical decisions when you’re incapable of doing so. In the event you are incapacitated by coronavirus, for example, a surrogate can give consent for doctors to intubate you or perform other life-saving measures. A surrogate can also assist with an application for public benefits to limit the costs of care and can authorize your admission to a medical facility.
- What do I need to do to name a health care surrogate? — An experienced estate planning lawyer can help you prepare a Designation of Health Care Surrogate form. In Florida, you must sign this form in the presence of two witnesses, one of whom must be a nonrelative. The surrogate can’t serve as a witness. You keep the original form and copies should be given to the surrogate and to your primary care physician.
- What if my health care surrogate can’t serve? — In some cases, the health care surrogate is unable to fulfill their role, so it is a good idea to designate an alternate. You should also discuss your wishes and medical choices with the people you plan on designating as your primary and alternate surrogates to make sure they understand how you feel about health care and medical treatment decisions. Your attorney can speak with you about the best candidates for serving as Surrogates.
- What if I get sick and don’t have a health care surrogate? — If you are incapable of making health care decisions on your own and you don’t have a health care surrogate, doctors must seek the court appointment of a health care proxy under Florida law. A proxy has essentially the same authority as a surrogate. There is a specific order of priority in such appointments: your legal guardian, spouse, adult child, parent, adult sibling, adult relative or close friend. If none of these are available, a licensed clinical social worker may be appointed as your proxy.
Such critical decisions should be made by a person you trust and that you designate and someone that you can feel confident will carry out your wishes.
The compassionate estate planning attorneys at Bankier, Arlen & Snelling Law Group, PLLC in Delray Beach can assist you with making these important planning decisions, including the designation of a health care surrogate. To arrange a consultation, please call M. Adam Bankier at 561-278-3110, Robert M. Arlen at 561-279-1880 or Linda L. Snelling at 561-501-7778 or contact us online.