November 2019

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Handwritten Wills

Is a handwritten Will valid in Florida? Sure is! As long as it is signed by the testator (that’s the person making the Will) at the end of the document, in front of two witnesses who also sign (all 3 must be in each other’s presence at the time of signing). I don’t advocate that anyone draft their own Will because self-prepared Wills are always problematic for lots of different reasons. But if you are in a pinch, and perhaps you have some legal guidance, you can handwrite your Will.

What is a health care surrogate?

What is a health care surrogate designation (aka healthy care proxy, advanced directive or medical power of attorney) and what happens when you don’t have one? A health care surrogate designation is a document wherein you appoint someone to make health care decisions for you if you become incapacitated.

What happens if you don’t have one of these? Florida law says the following people (in the designated order) can make a health care decision for you:

1) Court appointed guardian
2) Spouse
3) Adult child, or if there is more than one adult child, a majority of the adult children who are reasonably available for consultation
4) Parent
5) Adult sibling, or if more than one sibling, a majority of the adult siblings who are reasonably available for consultation
6) An adult relative who has exhibited special care and concern, who has maintained regular contact and who is familiar with the person’s activities, health, and religious or moral beliefs
7) A close friend
8) A licensed clinical social worker

If you don’t want any of the above people making medical decisions for you, then you’d better execute a health care surrogate designation.

Also included in most health care surrogate designations is a HIPAA release, which is where you authorize someone to access your medical information. Believe it or not, even though all of the aforementioned people can make medical decisions for you, they don’t have any access to your medical information . . . . . . go figure. Moral of the story, it’s best to have a health care surrogate designation in place.

Should I have a Durable Power of Attorney?

What is a Durable Power of Attorney and Should I have One? (Part I)
In my opinion, a durable power of attorney is often times the most important estate planning document that you can have. It’s also one of the most abused documents (more about that in Part II). A durable power of attorney (DPOA) gives someone authority to make financial decisions for you, such as paying your bills, talking to your insurance company or credit card company, selling property etc. If you become incapacitated and don’t have a DPOA, the only way someone can help you is to petition the court to become your guardian. Guardianships are intrusive, expensive and time consuming. Don’t end up in guardianship court . . . . . . . . get a durable power of attorney BEFORE it’s too late.