Did you know that one of the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis was the fact that many families were confronted with not knowing how to respond to a health care emergency involving their senior loved ones? Sadly, the pandemic impacted senior adults excessively harder than the rest of society, and many families realized they lacked the basic health care documents needed to act effectively on the behalf of their senior loved ones.

Knowing that the coronavirus is not over or that your senior loved ones could have another medical crisis, steps need to be taken to protect your senior loved ones, including addressing key estate items. Florida estate planning is not just creating wills and trusts, it also means drafting legally sound health documents, such as a health care surrogate, an advanced directive or living will, a health care privacy release, and more.

Families who are responsible for their senior loved ones need to be prepared for another coronavirus event, or other health considerations like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease impacting their loved ones. We would like to share four mistakes to avoid when using estate documents to advocate for your senior loved ones.

1. Not understanding what a living will is. A living will is definitely not a last will and testament. In fact, it is a completely separate legal document that allows others to know what the personal choices of the senior loved one’s are concerning his or her health care, and in particular his or her end-of-life medical decisions.

2. Not knowing what your senior loved one really wants. The most expertly drafted documents will be lacking if an elder loved one’s health care wishes are either unknown or unclear. Be sure that your loved ones make specific decisions about their health care and put them in writing. This will serve as the basis for constructing accurate health documents, or updating them, and provide future guidance to more effectively advocate for them. We recommend meeting with your experienced Florida estate planning attorney to create these documents.

3. Not knowing the importance of legal health care documents. A Florida health care surrogate is a very important document in estate planning for Florida seniors. Your senior loved ones should have their own health care documents and choose a trusted family member or friend to be their agent(s). Again, be sure the estate planning documents of your loved one, including all health care documents, are created by an experienced Florida estate planning attorney.

4. Not knowing the importance of selecting the correct agent. Advocating for an elder loved one is extremely important and involves more than legal documents.An agent should be able to communicate effectively with family, friends and physicians, have the ability to observe and question decisions or results and be patient and determined.

Planning for the future is critical to ensure that your goals for the end of life are achieved. We know this article may raise more questions that it answers. We do telephone, computer, and face-to-face appointments. Our face-to-face appointments are held outside in the open air (frequently selected by clients for document signing) and inside our office conference room. We follow all CDC guidelines. Our office procedures adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols and are designed and enhanced by medical review and air quality engineering.