Advance Directives

Advance directives are forms that detail your choices for health care and treatment, should you become unable to talk to your doctors or make your own health care decisions, due to being sick or hurt.

While no one is required to prepare an advance directive, all care providers are required by Florida law to make patients and families aware of them. The best time to complete an advance directive is when you’re able to consider your wishes carefully. 

While there are other types of healthcare planning forms, the two main types of advance directives are designation of health care surrogate and living will. For more information, listen to our podcast on advance directives. 

Download our free Guide to Advance Directives.

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Designation of Health Care Surrogate:

  • Lets you choose another person to make medical decisions based on your wishes for medical treatment, if you are not able to make your own decisions or if you choose not to make them for yourself.
  • Allows you to choose a health care decision maker who will be able to honor your wishes. You should select one person and designate an additional person as a backup.

Download our designation of health care surrogate and living will form in English and Spanish

Living Will:

  • Lets you choose the kind of health care you do and do not want if you have:
    • A terminal or end-stage condition, and there is little or no chance of meaningful recovery
    • A condition of permanent and irreversible unconsciousness, such as coma or vegetative state
    • An irreversible and severe mental or physical illness that prevents you from communicating with others, recognizing family and friends, or caring for yourself in any way
  • Goes into effect only if you are no longer able to make decisions or communicate your wishes yourself and are in one of the three conditions listed above.

Importance of Advance Directives

Deciding and communicating your wishes for health care in the form of an advance directive can be very valuable. It helps ensure you get the health care you want in the event you have a serious illness or injury and cannot communicate your wishes. It’s also a valuable tool for families as they face difficult decisions about caring for a loved one in a serious situation or in the final phase of life. Studies show that people who talk to their family members, friends or doctors about their wishes have less stress, confusion and guilt about their decisions. In most cases, family members are grateful to know the type of medical care a loved one wanted.

With Whom Should I Discuss Advance Directives?

Deciding whom to talk to about your health care is up to you. Talking with someone you’re confident sharing your information with, like a close friend, family member or spiritual advisor, is often helpful.  These types of discussions can be hard to start. Get some tips to help you begin this important conversation.

By Florida law, if you do not choose a designated health care surrogate, a proxy (decision maker) will be appointed in the following order of priority:

  • Court-appointed guardian
  • Spouse
  • Majority of adult children (who are readily available)
  • A parent
  • Majority of adult siblings (who are readily available)
  • A close adult relative
  • A close friend who knows you well
  • A licensed clinical social worker