Protect Your Wishes with a Durable Power of Attorney

Durable Power of Attorney - Why every adult needs one.

As an adult, you are the only one who can make decisions regarding your finances and health care. A Durable Power of Attorney protects your financial and health care decisions, should you not be able to. Moreover, without these critical documents, you’ll likely risk a time-consuming and stressful legal proceeding where the Court will decide who makes those imperative decisions for you.

Read on to learn what you need to know about the Durable Power of Attorney process and start planning ahead, today.

Starting a Durable Power of Attorney

What’s one of the first building blocks to creating a good estate plan? To establish a Durable Power of Attorney, which includes developing documents that outline and protect your financial and health care wishes. With these documents, you will appoint an “agent”, otherwise referred to as a “guardian of the estate” in finance and “guardian of the person” in healthcare. And, you can appoint the same person.

These “agents” will then have the legal authority to act on your behalf in the event of your death or incapacity. Additionally, every adult – whether you’re married or single – should have both documents.

 

Why adults need a General Durable Power of Attorney

Can’t My Spouse Make Decisions on My Behalf?

Unfortunately, if the right paperwork isn’t in order, things can get messy.

Because of the Wisconsin State Law, your spouse may retain access to many of your jointly titled assets. However, they do not have the legal right to make decisions for you if they haven’t been appointed as your Power of Attorney, regardless of how long you have been married. Therefore, make sure to document who will handle your financial and health care wishes while you are able to do so.

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What Responsibilities Can My Financial and Health Care Agents Anticipate?

The financial agent and the health care agent have completely separate roles. Because of this, we’ve detailed how each role is handled.

Durable Power of Attorney - Financial and Healthcare Decisions
Guardian of the Estate

Should you become incapacitated or unable to make financial decisions, your financial power of attorney will act on your behalf. This person is known as the “Guardian of the Estate.” He or she will also have to file a detailed annual account of how your assets have been spent throughout the year.

Guardian of the Person

The individual who oversees and reports annually on your personal welfare is called the “Guardian of the Person.”

In the health care power of attorney document, there is also a section in which you can detail your specific wishes, such as your willingness to be an organ donor or any religious preferences you may have. That being said, your selected agent has a clear understanding of how to follow through with your personal health care choices.

What Happens if You Don’t Have One or Both?

Should you become incapacitated and have not signed both powers of attorney, this could cause some concerns and a legal proceeding called a “Guardianship” will be required. Furthermore, a Court would declare you to be incompetent and will your legal rights to make decisions over to a “Guardian” to exercise on your behalf.

Most noteworthy, once a Guardianship has been put into place, it is almost always permanent.

Durable Power of Attorney - Guardianship is an expensive, time-consuming and stressful process.

There are exceptions…

The only way to reverse a Guardianship would be to prove to the Court’s satisfaction that your mental competence has been restored. Because of this, Guardianship is a stressful, time-consuming and expensive legal proceeding. So, why not avoid yourself a headache by having the proper powers of attorney in place? Don’t you want to be the one choosing your agents to ensure your wishes are carried out?

According to USA Today, 64% of Americans don’t have a will. So, why not take control of your choices today?

In short, a Durable Power of Attorney is inexpensive and can be customized to your needs. It also serves as a legal safeguard for you, which is so important and your loved ones. If it’s time to make sure your healthcare and financial decisions are handled, let us help. We are more than happy to make sure all of the right documents are in place. After all, you are the one in control of your own choices.

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Durable Powers of Attorney

The first two building blocks of a good estate plan are the General Durable Power of Attorney, also referred to as a financial power of attorney, and the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Every adult should have both. As an adult, you are the only one who can make decisions with regard to your own finances and health care. There are only two means by which someone else could obtain the authority to make those decisions for you. The first is through the use of the two powers of attorney. With these documents, you yourself appoint “agents,” one for your finances and one for your health care. These individuals then have the legal authority to act on your behalf in the event of your incapacity. Having both of these documents is just as important if you are married as it is if you are single. In the State of Wisconsin, although your spouse may retain access to many of your jointly titled assets, he or she does not have the legal right to make decisions for you, regardless how long you have been married.

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Living Will vs. Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

In the State of Wisconsin there are two separate health care advance directives:  the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and the Declaration to Physicians (commonly called the Living Will). As advance directives, both are designed to provide direction regarding your health care and treatment in the event that you are no longer able to make your wishes known. Beyond that, however, the two are very different documents.

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When a Loved One Dies

A Checklist of What to Do When a Loved One Dies

When a loved one passes away, it is an understandably stressful time. It can be even more stressful and/or traumatic trying to remember all of the details that must be taken care of related to a person’s death. If you are in charge of handling the affairs of the decedent (the person who has died), here is a checklist of some of the more important considerations:

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