LIVING WILLS AND HEALTH CARE ADVANCE DIRECTIVES: FAQs
The Florida Legislature has recognized that every competent adult has the fundamental right of self-
determination regarding decisions pertaining to his or her own health, including the right to choose or
refuse medical treatment or procedures which would only prolong life when a terminal condition exists.
This right, however, is subject to certain interests of society, such as the protection of human life and
the preservation of ethical standards in the medical profession. To ensure that this right is not lost or
diminished by virtue of later physical or mental incapacity, the Legislature has established a procedure
within Florida Statutes Chapter 765 allowing a person to plan for incapacity, and if desired, to designate
another person to act on his or her behalf and make necessary medical decisions upon such
What is a Living Will?
Every competent adult has the right to make a written declaration commonly known as a "Living Will."
The purpose of this document is to direct the provision, the withholding or withdrawal of life prolonging
procedures in the event one should have a terminal condition. The suggested form of this instrument
has been provided by the Legislature within Florida Statutes Section 765.303. In Florida, the definition
of "life prolonging procedures" has been expanded by the Legislature to include the provision of food
and water to terminally ill patients.
What is the difference between a Living Will and a legal will?
A Living Will should not be confused with a person’s legal will, which disposes of personal property on
or after his or her death, and appoints a personal representative or revokes or revises another will.
How do I make my Living Will effective?
Under Florida law, a Living Will must be signed by its maker in the presence of two witnesses, at least
one of whom is neither the spouse nor a blood relative of the maker. If the maker is physically unable to
sign the Living Will, one of the witnesses can sign in the presence and at the direction of the maker.
Florida will recognize a Living Will, which has been signed in another state, if that Living Will was
signed in compliance with the laws of that state, or in compliance with the laws of Florida.
After I sign a Living Will, what is next?
Once a Living Will has been signed, it is the maker's responsibility to provide notification to the
physician of its existence. It is a good idea to provide a copy of the Living Will to the maker's physician
and hospital, to be placed within the medical records.
What is a Health Care Surrogate?
Any competent adult may also designate authority to a Health Care Surrogate to make all health care
decisions during any period of incapacity. During the maker's incapacity, the Health Care Surrogate has
the duty to consult expeditiously, with appropriate health care providers. The Surrogate also provides
informed consent and makes only health care decisions for the maker, which he or she believes the
maker would have made under the circumstances if the maker were capable of making such decisions.
If there is no indication of what the maker would have chosen, the Surrogate may consider the maker's
best interest in deciding on a course of treatment. The suggested form of this instrument has been
provided by the Legislature within Florida Statutes Section 765.203.
How do I designate a Health Care Surrogate?
Under Florida law, designation of a Health Care Surrogate should be made through a written document,
and should be signed in the presence of two witnesses, at least one of whom is neither the spouse nor
a blood relative of the maker. The person designated as Surrogate cannot act as a witness to the
signing of the document.