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Paul E. Riffel Tampa Estate Planning Attorney

Five Things You Need to Know about Changes to the Florida Health Care Surrogate Law


Did you know that, in 2015, the Florida legislature updated the law regarding health care surrogates? The law applies to all documents executed after October 1, 2015. The changes to the law include more flexibility in creating these documents and provides more options for those wanting to name a health care surrogate. Some changes are particularly beneficial for parents of minor children and young adults living on their own for the first time. Let us review five parts of the law that you should know prior to creating your own health care surrogate documents:

  1. You do not have to be incapacitated to designate a surrogate to make health care decisions. What this means is that you can decide to name someone now who can make healthcare decisions or sign healthcare documents for you, even though you are capable of doing it yourself, should the need arise. Provided you are not incapacitated, you will still be the first decision-maker and point of contact regarding treatment plans and your choices will take precedence.
  2. You will be able to revoke a health care surrogate if you change your mind, for any reason. In the past, health care surrogate documents were much less flexible. The new flexibility in revocation can make these more palatable and portable.
  3. Parents can name health care surrogates for their minor children. While parents may usually want to be the decision makers, this can be useful if you and your spouse both decide to go on an international vacation and your children are staying with their grandparents or other relatives. You can make those relatives their health care surrogates so that in case of emergency, they are authorized to make medical decisions for the children. As noted above, you can easily revoke or end the surrogate designation when you return from your travels if you do not want it to be final.
  4. Surrogates have automatic access to information protected under HIPAA. In the past, there was some confusion on this point. The new law makes it clear that your health care surrogate can access this information in order to make the best decisions on your behalf, or on your minor child’s behalf if applicable.
  5. You can give your health care surrogate the power to receive medical information immediately. This means that if, for example, you are a college student and you are receiving medical treatment, you can authorize your doctor to give your mother or father updates directly if you are not able to communicate with them right away.

Have you put a comprehensive estate plan in place, including a health care surrogate? Our office is here to help you establish these important legal tools to protect both you and your family. Please call us today to schedule an appointment.

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