Wills and Power of Attorneys: A Comprehensive Guide to Power of Attorneys and How They Accentuate a Will
When it comes to estate planning, having a last will and testament (a “will”) is just the tip of the iceberg. A well-rounded estate plan also includes crucial documents known as Powers of Attorney (POAs). In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the world of POAs, how they complement a will, and what you need to know about them.
Types of Power of Attorneys Available in Wisconsin
In Wisconsin, estate plans typically feature two essential types of POAs:
- Financial Power of Attorney: This document empowers someone you trust (referred to as an “agent” or “attorney-in-fact”) to manage your financial and business affairs on your behalf.
- Healthcare Power of Attorney: This POA authorizes someone to make medical decisions for you when you are unable to do so.
These POAs are usually “durable,” meaning they remain effective even if you become incapacitated, making them crucial for planning ahead.
To explore other POA types, like non-durable and springing POAs, check out this resource. Now, let’s focus on creating a durable financial POA valid in Wisconsin.
Legal Requirements for Financial Power of Attorneys in Wisconsin
For your POA to be valid in Wisconsin, it must meet specific legal requirements:
1. Mental Capacity: The person creating the POA must be of sound mind. While the exact criteria can vary, it’s advisable to consult a lawyer if you’re uncertain about meeting this requirement.
2. Notarization: Though not mandatory by Wisconsin law, notarization is strongly recommended. Notarized POAs are more robust and widely accepted by financial institutions.
Steps to Create Financial Power of Attorneys in Wisconsin
- Choose a Method: Wisconsin offers a statutory form, and you can also use software or consult an attorney to create your POA. Consider the complexity of your financial affairs when deciding.
- Grant Powers: Specify the powers you want to grant to your agent, covering areas like real estate, financial institutions, taxes, and more.
- Notarize the Document: To strengthen the document’s authenticity, have it notarized.
- Secure the Original: Keep the original POA in a secure yet accessible place, informing your loved ones of its location.
- Provide a Copy to Your Agent: Ensure your agent has a copy to understand their responsibilities.
- File with Land Records Office: If your POA involves real estate, file a copy with the land records office in the respective county.
- Inform Financial Institutions: Share copies with financial institutions your agent might deal with, reducing potential hassles.
Agent Selection and Duration of Durable Financial Power of Attorneys
In Wisconsin, you can choose any competent adult as your agent, considering trustworthiness and location. While co-agents are possible, it’s often advisable to have a single agent to avoid conflicts. Designating a successor agent is a wise backup plan.
Your durable financial POA typically takes effect immediately, unless specified otherwise. Avoid creating a “springing” POA reliant on a condition, as it may not be practical.
Termination of a Durable Financial Power of Attorneys
Your financial POA ends upon your death, revocation (while mentally competent), or if a court invalidates it. Also, if your spouse is the agent and you divorce, their authority ends.
Why You Need Both a Will and Power of Attorneys
While a will focuses on asset distribution and guardianship, POAs are essential for situations where you’re alive but unable to make decisions. Leaving these decisions to the courts or your family’s unpreparedness is avoidable.
In essence, a comprehensive estate plan combines both elements to safeguard your future. If you’re ready to take this crucial step in Wisconsin, don’t hesitate to contact the lawyers at Dahlberg Law Group for expert guidance.
FAQs about Power of Attorneys in Wisconsin
Q1: What is the purpose of Power of Attorneys (POAs)?
A1: A POA authorizes someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf, either financial or healthcare-related, when you are unable to do so.
Q2: How does a will differ from Power of Attorneys?
A2: A will outlines asset distribution and guardianship, focusing on post-mortem matters. POAs deal with decisions during your lifetime.
Q3: Do I need both a will and Power of Attorneys?
A3: Yes, because they serve different yet vital functions, ensuring your assets and well-being are protected in various scenarios.
For more information on the estate planning process, you can visit these valuable resources: