BATTLE OF THE DOCUMENTS: Multiple Health Care Surrogate Designations

You know you should update your estate planning documents every so often to keep them current. You know you should update them when you have a major life change, like the birth of a child, the death of a spouse or a divorce.

Simple Health Care Surrogate forms can be found everywhere, online, Assisted Living Facilities, Hospitals… But what happens to your old designations when you sign a new form? Does the current document revoke the first? What happens if there are more than one valid Health Care Surrogate Designation?

What Is A Health Care Surrogate Designation?

The Health Care Surrogate Designation is a legal document appointing someone to make health care decisions for you. Your Health Care Surrogate (HCS) will advocate for you, in accordance with your wishes as expressed in the document and in your Living Will. It is your “medical power of attorney.”  For more information see the March 2016 Oakstone Acorn Feature Article (Click HERE).

According to Florida Statute 765,202(7), “unless the document states a time of termination, the designation shall remain in effect until revoked by the principal.”

How Is It Revoked?

The principal may at any time revoke or amend the designation by:

  • Signing a written and dated instrument which expresses intent to amend or revoke;
  • Physically destroying the designation;
  • Verbally expressing intention to amend or revoke; or
  • Signing a new designation that is materially different.

Can You Have More Than One?

Yes, you can have more than one document and more than one Health Care Surrogate if you so desire. However, we recommend limiting your Health Care Surrogate to a single person if possible and listing alternates should your first choice be unable or unwilling to act on your behalf.

Why Only One?

The more people you have to make such important decisions the more likely they are to have different opinions and cause gridlock in coming to decisions regarding your care. However, perhaps the bigger issue is that multiple documents often conflict, and no one knows which document expresses your true wishes.

This conflicting authorization is bad for you and for the Doctors, Hospitals and Assisted Living Facilities from which you are receiving care because now there is a need to arbitrate a conflict between the different HCSs. This means waiting to make a decision when you may need critical care decisions quickly. Time is wasted and delays can have negative or life altering consequences.

What Do You Do?

First read your most current document and see if it revokes all others. If it does, there is nothing more needed so long as it still reflects your wishes and the Surrogate designations are available to serve if need be.

If the document is does not specifically revoke prior documents and it’s not materially different from your last, then you can physically destroy the one you no longer wish to be followed, by ripping it, shredding it, etc. We do not recommend orally revoking your HCS as that can be potentially contested.

If you do decide to revoke your HCS, be sure you have a valid one in its place. You do not want to go without! Sometimes it’s better to have a not so perfect document than no document at all.

Can’t tell whether your current document revokes all priors or unsure if you’re most recent is materially different? Please talk with us. Perhaps it’s time to update your documents anyway and you can be sure to request language be drafted to revoke prior documents.

As always, if you have any concerns, questions or wish to have a document review, Oakestone Law is here to assist you!
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Oakstone Law
1415 Panther Lane, Suite 439
Naples, Florida 34109
Tel: 239.206.3454