A power of attorney (POA) is an estate planning tool where you appoint a person, known as the agent, to manage your affairs. Typically, the POA is appointed to manage financial or medical matters when you cannot do so yourself because you are incapacitated by illness or injury.
People are often confused, however, as to when and which type of POA is needed. At Heritage Law Office, our estate planning attorney will review your estate and specific concerns and advise you if and which POA is best for you, your unique situation, and your estate plan. Contact us either through our online or at 414-253-8500 to schedule a free consultation to learn more about how and why a POA can complement your estate plan in Wisconsin.
What Constitutes a Power of Attorney in Wisconsin?
A power of attorney is the legal authorization for one person, the agent, to act on behalf of another person, the principal. Often called a letter of attorney or just a "POA", they are a common element of estate planning as they let a person who is losing their ability to manage their own affairs choose someone they trust to make decisions for them.
There are six types of POA, described below.
1. Durable POA
A durable POA takes effect immediately upon your signature unless the POA states otherwise and allows your agent to continue acting on your behalf even when you are incapacitated. A durable POA terminates only when you die or when a revocation of POA form is issued.
2. Non-durable POA
A non-durable POA takes effect immediately upon your signature unless the POA states otherwise. It does not allow your agent to continue acting on your behalf when you become incapacitated. In the latter scenario, only a court-appointed guardian or conservator can make decisions on your behalf.
3. Medical POA
A medical POA is sometimes referred to as an advance directive because it allows you to appoint a health care agent to make medical decisions for you when you cannot do so. It is limited by your specific medical preferences and any other directive you may have as part of your estate plan, like a living will or a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) form.
4. General POA
A general POA allocates broad powers to the agent to act on financial, business, real estate, and legal matters. This POA is limited only by the terms set out in the POA or by any relevant state statute.
5. Limited (Special) POA
A limited (Special) POA allows the agent to act for a specific purpose and once that purpose is accomplished, the POA expires.
6. Springing POA
A springing POA takes effect if/when a certain event or medical condition occurs as specified in the POA. It ends at a specified time as outlined in the POA or if/when you become incapacitated or die.
When is a Power of Attorney Necessary in Wisconsin?
A power of attorney is a useful tool for people who are planning their estate but who are losing the ability to understand the repercussions of their decisions and actions. By giving an agent the power to make those decisions, a principal can rest assured that someone is taking care of them.
A POA is common in the following situations:
- The principal is suffering from a worsening medical condition that impacts their mental capacity, like Alzheimer's or dementia
- The principal is physically disabled and cannot sign important documents
- The principal wants to give someone else the power to make specific decisions on their behalf
There are, of course, other reasons why you may need or want a power of attorney created. Speaking to an estate planning attorney in Wisconsin is the best way for you to identify and determine what will work best for you.
How is a Letter of Attorney Created in Wisconsin?
Each state has its own requirements for creating a letter of attorney, though most are based on the parties and witnesses signing a power of attorney form. Because having the power to make financial and medical decisions for someone else is such a serious matter, each state incorporates formalities that must be followed to:
- Ensure the power of attorney is legitimate; and
- Confirm the person relinquishing their rights is doing it knowingly and voluntarily.
Many states require a witness along with notarization. Contact us in Wisconsin to find out exactly what the process is so that you don't make mistakes that could prompt delays or problems.
Contact an Estate Planning Lawyer in Wisconsin when You Need a Power of Attorney
Powers of attorney are powerful tools to make sure your finances and other business or personal matters are properly managed while you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to oversee them yourself. You can speak to an estate planning attorney at Heritage Law Office to discuss estate planning generally and powers of attorney as part of the estate plan specifically. We always believe that our clients in Wisconsin make better choices for themselves and their loved ones when they are well-informed and adequately prepared. Contact us directly at 414-253-8500 or through our online form today to schedule a free consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is a Power of Attorney and why is it important?
A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that grants a designated person, known as an agent, the authority to act on your behalf in personal, financial, or health matters. This is particularly useful in situations where you might be incapacitated due to illness or injury and unable to make these decisions for yourself. It's a crucial component of estate planning as it ensures that your affairs will be managed according to your wishes even if you can't oversee them yourself.
2. What are the different types of Power of Attorney?
There are six main types of Power of Attorney (POA): Durable, Non-durable, Medical, General, Limited (Special), and Springing. Each type grants different levels of authority to the agent and is used in different circumstances. The right one for you will depend on your specific needs and circumstances. It's advisable to consult with an estate planning attorney to determine which type is best for you.
3. When should I consider setting up a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney is generally recommended for individuals who are planning their estate but may be losing their ability to comprehend the consequences of their decisions and actions. This is particularly beneficial for people suffering from a medical condition that impacts their mental capacity, those who are physically disabled and unable to sign important documents, or for anyone who wishes to delegate certain decision-making responsibilities to another individual.
4. How do I set up a Power of Attorney in Wisconsin?
Each state has unique requirements for setting up a Power of Attorney. Generally, it involves the parties involved and witnesses signing a Power of Attorney form. However, the process can be complex due to the significance of granting someone else the power to make important decisions on your behalf. To ensure that your Power of Attorney is valid and that you're fully aware of what you're agreeing to, it's recommended to seek legal advice. In Wisconsin, our attorneys can guide you through this process.
5. Can a Power of Attorney be revoked or changed?
Yes, a Power of Attorney can be revoked or changed as long as the principal (the person who issued the POA) is mentally competent. To do this, you typically need to provide written notice of the revocation to the agent and any institutions or parties that have a copy of the Power of Attorney. It's advisable to seek legal assistance when doing this to ensure all necessary steps are followed.