For many residents of the Sunshine State, creating an estate plan provides for peace of mind knowing you are prepared for your death or incapacit. By approving an advance care directive and naming a health care surrogate, they mitigate uncertainty by ensuring that their personal beliefs and values remain respected in the face of injury and incapacity. However, naming the right health care surrogate isn’t always easy. Some people may try to designate multiple health care surrogates, whether to avert the risk of conflict among family members or prevent confusion in the event that a surrogate cannot be found.

While Florida law permits you to designate more than one representative in a living will, delegating the same position to friends and relatives can induce unexpected complications. 

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DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, P.A., have spent decades helping our neighbors in Sun City Center stay true to their values. Our experienced team of attorneys can help you or a loved one establish an estate plan that privileges your personal beliefs without risking your legacy. 

The Role of Living Wills and Health Care Surrogates

Florida living will with multiple health care surrogatesPeople often believe that a last will and testament serves no purpose beyond the naming of heirs and the distribution of inheritances. However, Florida permits the creation of several different types of wills.

A living will, unlike its more conventional counterpart, contains specific instructions on how its writer, the principal, should be treated if they’re ever critically injured, diagnosed with a terminal illness, or otherwise incapacitated. 

Living wills are typically reinforced through the naming of a health care surrogate. A health care surrogate is the person who is nominated to make medical decisions on the principal’s behalf. 

If the principal is ever incapacitated, their surrogate could:  

  • Authorize diagnostic procedures 
  • Provide or decline informed consent for surgery 
  • Accept or refuse resuscitation and other life-prolonging procedures

Many living wills are structured, providing directions for surrogates to follow and information on the types of treatment that the principal would—or would not—wish to receive. These often relate to end-of-life care, with some stipulating how long the principal should be kept on life support if they’re unlikely to recover from an injury or illness. 

Nominating a Health Care Surrogate 

Almost anyone could serve as a surrogate, subject to certain limitations. These limitations are provided by the Florida Statutes, which require the following: 

  • Surrogacy arrangements must be signed in the presence of at least two adult witnesses, one of whom cannot be the principal’s spouse or blood relative. 
  • The person or persons nominated as a surrogate cannot act as one of the two or more witnesses to the agreement. 

Florida law also explicitly permits the naming of an alternate surrogate—someone who may act as the principal’s attorney-in-fact if the original surrogate is “not willing, able, or reasonably available to perform his or her duties.” Since there are many situations and circumstances in which an original surrogate may not be available to make critical medical decisions, every living will and advance health care directive should—whenever possible—include an alternate surrogate designation. 

Naming Multiple Health Care Surrogates to Your Florida Living Will

While a named additional surrogate is often advised, the state provides somewhat more opaque guidance on the nomination of multiple attorneys-in-fact. 

Although there’s no law prohibiting the naming of more than one surrogate, doing so isn’t typically recommended. If you’re ever incapacitated or injured, your doctor may have to communicate with each surrogate, obtaining informed consent from each before proceeding with a procedure. Should your surrogates disagree on approving a treatment or declining care, they may be forced to resolve their differences in court—depriving you of the attention you need, or the respite that you deserve.

Making the Right Call

While you can name more than one person as your healthcare surrogate, we advise against it. When it comes down to vital end-of-life decisions, we do not want the people you name to disagree. When a disagreement occurs, your life may be prolonged in an unfortunate way that goes against your living will. The best thing to do is to name the right person to make your health care decisions and trust they will do the job.

Contact Our Sun City Center Estate Planning Attorney for a Consultation

The lawyers at DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, PA, have been protecting the interests and ensuring the legacies of Floridians since 1976. Let our estate planning attorney in Sun City Center help you find the peace of mind you need with an effective, comprehensive estate plan. Call us today at 727-777-6842 or click the button below to schedule a consultation today.

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