A power of attorney is one of the most important parts of estate planning—and one that many Wisconsinites overlook. Many people believe that a will, the most popular estate planning document, is the sole document needed and addresses every situation. The reality is that a Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Power of Attorney are two important estate planning documents that make a difficult time easier for a family.
What is a Durable Power of Attorney in Wisconsin?
A Durable Power of Attorney designates a party to act for another person. The Durable Power of Attorney specifies when the designation comes into effect, such as immediately or when the person is incapacitated. The designee may make financial decisions (i.e. pay bills, purchase or sell real estate, etc.), give out gifts, apply for benefits, modify investment and retirement plans, and perform other actions on behalf of another. Because the Durable Power of Attorney gives the designee significant powers, anyone considering the designation should carefully consider who to designate. In some cases, the right designee may be an organization.
What can a Health Care Power of Attorney do?
A Health Care Power of Attorney is another designation that relates specifically to health care decisions. The designee can make decision about the health of another party, especially when a person is incapacitated or incompetent. This estate planning document is also the location where a party can spell out their wishes for health care for the designee. This designation can name the same party who acts as the executor of the will or receives the Durable Power or Attorney designation, or can be a completely different party.
Why is a Power of Attorney important?
A Power of Attorney is invaluable during times when a person is incapacitated or unable to make decisions. If a Durable Power of Attorney is not named in Wisconsin, the family may need to go to court and get a guardian appointed. The process can be expensive and cumbersome during an already difficult period.
The Power of Attorney process can be done independently or as part of the estate planning process with an experienced lawyer. The document should be notarized and can be drafted with broad powers over a person’s affairs or with specific instructions about what powers and when the document goes into effect.