Estate Planning Attorneys Serving all of Wisconsin
An important part of planning your estate is determining who will manage your financial and health-related affairs, should you no longer be able to do so. In Wisconsin, this is done through the establishment of powers of attorney.
While a significant component of your estate plan involves establishing a plan for distributing your assets when you die, this is only part of the process. Estate planning also involves planning for the later stages of life – when you may no longer be able to make the types of decisions that you are able to make today.
If you become incapacitated due to old age or an illness or injury, who do you want to manage your finances? Who do you want to make healthcare-related decisions (including end-of-life care decisions) on your behalf? These are important questions, and ones that you do not want to leave unanswered once you are no longer able to communicate your desires. By planning ahead, you can make sure that you remain a part of the decision-making process, and you can avoid placing your loved ones in the difficult position of not knowing exactly what you would want them to do.
Understanding Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that authorizes a person (called an “agent”) to act on behalf of someone else. Powers of attorney can be broad or limited, though it often makes sense to be fairly specific in terms of the scope of authority granted to the agent. For example, a POA for financial matters may specify that the agent has authority to write checks to pay your bills, but not to spend your money on any unnecessary items.
Powers of Attorney for Financial Matters
In general terms, a POA for financial matters authorizes one person to manage another person’s bank accounts and other assets. Depending on the scope of the power granted, this could include things like:
- Paying bills
- Filing and paying taxes
- Collecting Social Security and other government benefits
- Managing your money, including buying and selling securities
- Managing your retirement income
- Buying insurance
- Transferring property to a trust
- Paying legal fees
You can choose for your POA to go into effect immediately, at a specified date in the future, or upon the occurrence of a specific event – such as a medical doctor declaring you mentally incapacitated. In any case, it is critical to be clear about the triggering event so that you and your agent both know exactly when his or her powers and responsibilities begin.
Powers of Attorney for Healthcare
A power of attorney for healthcare authorizes another person to make medical decisions on your behalf. Like a financial POA, one designated for healthcare can be as general or as specific as you want it to be. A POA for healthcare can cover everything from the decision to admit you to a long-term care facility to decisions about your end-of-life care. Without a designated POA, if you become incapacitated, you may need to have a guardian legally appointed to make decisions on your behalf.
Common Questions About Powers of Attorney in Wisconsin
1. Who should I name as my agent in my power of attorney?
Choosing an agent is an important decision. You should make sure that the person who you choose is comfortable with taking on the responsibility. You may choose one person to serve as your agent for both financial and medical purposes; or, you can designate different agents in your financial and healthcare POAs.
2. When does a power of attorney end?
Your POA will terminate upon your death, unless you terminate them sooner. The person who will manage your financial affairs after your death (to the extent not covered by a trust or other non-probate transfer document) is the personal representative whom you name in your will.
3. Doesn’t my spouse automatically have authority to make medical decisions for me?
In Wisconsin, you must designate an agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. Your spouse does not automatically have this authority. If you want your spouse to be able to make decisions for you, you must name him or her as your agent in your healthcare POA.
Speak with an Estate Planning Lawyer in Wausau, WI
At Crooks, Low & Connell, S.C., we provide comprehensive estate planning services for individuals in North Central Wisconsin. If you would like more information about using powers of attorney in your estate plan, please call (715) 842-2291 or contact one of our attorneys online to schedule a consultation today.