Did a senior loved one in your family have a health care emergency during COVID-19? Unfortunately, many Florida families confronted a medical crisis with a senior loved one during COVID-19. Now, many Florida families realize they do not have any of the basic health care documents needed to effectively act on the behalf of their senior loved ones.

Families need to take steps to protect their senior loved one now and not wait for another COVID-19 outbreak, accident or health care crisis. The first step should be creating an estate plan with your loved one’s Florida estate planning attorney. Families need to realize that estate planning is not just about creating wills and trusts. An estate plan also means drafting legally sound health care documents, a living will, and a health care privacy release.

We want to caution families about four mistakes to avoid when using estate documents to advocate for your senior loved one:

1. Do not mistake a living will for a last will and testament. Remember, a living will is not a last will and testament. In fact, it is a completely separate legal document. In the living will your senior loved one will tell the family and others what his or her personal choices are concerning his or her health care, and in particular his or her end-of-life medical decisions.

2. Do not make the mistake of not knowing what your senior loved one wants. If the family of the senior loved one does not know the health care wishes or are confused about the wishes because they are unclear, then even the most expertly drafted documents will have a problem. Right now, families with senior loved ones should have specific conversations with their loved ones about their health care and have them put in writing by an experienced Florida estate planning attorney. This can serve as the basis for constructing accurate health documents, or updating them, and provide future guidance to more effectively advocate for them.

3. Do not make the mistake of not understanding what a health care document can do. A health care document is one of the most important documents in your senior loved one’s estate plan.With this document your loved one will choose a trusted family member or friend to be his or her agent and make health decisions if he or she is incapacitated due to an accident or medical crisis. Your family is strongly encouraged to have this document created by your senior loved one’s Florida estate planning attorney.

4. Do not make the mistake of choosing the wrong agent for the health care document. First, the agent should be chosen by your senior loved one. This person should be trusted by your loved one to advocate for him or her. This person should already know the wishes and concerns of your loved one. This person should be available at any time when needed, be able to communicate with medical staff and family and have only the best interests of the senior loved one.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers, and are here to help. At David H. Jacoby Elder Law Advocate, P. A., we are focused on providing thorough, ethical, and timely solutions for our clients and their loved ones. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with us.