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.
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.
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.
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.
Get one-on-one assistance here.