Many Wisconsin residents, as they set about creating an estate plan, give considerable thought to the distribution of their assets. Sometimes, though, they neglect to give a similar degree of consideration to the part of their estate plan that matters during their lifetimes: their powers of attorney. This is a mistake, as the person you appoint to make decisions for you if you become incapacitated often has substantial power to make even the most basic life decisions for you. A wrong choice may cost you a huge portion of your estate, or alter the course of your medical care or where you live.
Selecting agents as part of creating your powers of attorney is incredibly important. The person you name as your agent, or attorney-in-fact, under your Wisconsin power of attorney often has very broad powers. Your agent under your financial power of attorney may have the legal authority and responsibility to manage all your assets, handle all your money and pay all your bills. Your agent under your health care power of attorney may decide where you live (including whether you will be placed in a nursing home), whether you will undergo a medical procedure and perhaps whether you’ll receive life-sustaining care (such as a feeding tube).
These are obviously enormously important decisions. In order to ensure that your agent best serves your needs, you should consider several factors as you select your agent. For your financial agent, you should select someone who can logistically handle managing your finances. If someone you’re considering lives far from Wisconsin, it may be difficult for them to manage your financial affairs from long distance. Your agent should also have the time to devote to managing your affairs, so a person with an especially demanding job may be at a disadvantage when it comes to dealing with your assets and bills. He or she should also be organized and good at handling money.
Similarly, when deciding on a health care agent, you should select someone who has the time and the logistical wherewithal to devote to managing your personal decisions and communicating with your caregivers. You also want to analyze a potential agent’s abilities to put his/her own emotions aside and follow through with your preferred desires for health care, even if those decisions are in conflict with his/her own feelings arising from his/her love or affinity for you.
As you weigh these decisions, keep in mind that you can name more than one person to serve, and can dictate whether any one of your agents may act, whether a majority is required to act or if they all must agree in order to act. Beware requiring unanimity among a large group, as this may pose logistical and communication challenges, and increase the risk of inaction due to an inability to agree.
Deciding on your financial and health care attorneys in fact may prove to be the most important decisions you ever make. In order to ensure you choose with the fullest understanding of the law, consult Madison estate planning attorney Daniel J. Krause of Krause Law Offices LLC. We are here to educate about the law, and to serve as your trusted advisors in making these extremely personal and important choices.
Contact Krause Law Offices LLC through our website or call our office at (608) 268-5751 to schedule your confidential, no obligation initial consultation today.
Powers of Attorney Serve as an Indispensible Part of Your Estate Plan, Wisconsin Probate & Estate Planning Blog, April 16, 2013
Is It Time For Scheduled Maintenance On Your Estate Plan?, Wisconsin Probate & Estate Planning Blog, Feb. 12, 2013
Planning In Advance For Incapacity, Wisconsin Probate & Estate Planning Blog, Nov. 29, 2012