Why is a Power of Attorney necessary in Wisconsin?

power of attorney document for parent to sign for a child

A power of attorney is one of the most important parts of estate planning—and one that many Wisconsinites overlook. Many people believe that a will, the most popular estate planning document, is the sole document needed and addresses every situation. The reality is that a Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Power of Attorney are two important estate planning documents that make a difficult time easier for a family.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney in Wisconsin?

A Durable Power of Attorney designates a party to act for another person. The Durable Power of Attorney specifies when the designation comes into effect, such as immediately or when the person is incapacitated. The designee may make financial decisions (i.e. pay bills, purchase or sell real estate, etc.), give out gifts, apply for benefits, modify investment and retirement plans, and perform other actions on behalf of another. Because the Durable Power of Attorney gives the designee significant powers, anyone considering the designation should carefully consider who to designate. In some cases, the right designee may be an organization.

What can a Health Care Power of Attorney do?

A Health Care Power of Attorney is another designation that relates specifically to health care decisions. The designee can make decision about the health of another party, especially when a person is incapacitated or incompetent. This estate planning document is also the location where a party can spell out their wishes for health care for the designee. This designation can name the same party who acts as the executor of the will or receives the Durable Power or Attorney designation, or can be a completely different party.

Why is a Power of Attorney important?

A Power of Attorney is invaluable during times when a person is incapacitated or unable to make decisions. If a Durable Power of Attorney is not named in Wisconsin, the family may need to go to court and get a guardian appointed. The process can be expensive and cumbersome during an already difficult period.

The Power of Attorney process can be done independently or as part of the estate planning process with an experienced lawyer. The document should be notarized and can be drafted with broad powers over a person’s affairs or with specific instructions about what powers and when the document goes into effect.

The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of future results. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and the receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney.

Dying Without a Will: 4 Things to Know in Wisconsin

dying without a will

When someone dies without a will, the question eventually is asked, “who receives the deceased’s estate?” Wisconsin has  intestacy laws that dictate who receives the deceased’s assets when there is no will. (This is one of the key reasons to draft a will; a person can name beneficiaries to receive assets.) This post highlights key points that family members should know about the situation when a person dies without a will. For information specific to the exact situation, consult an  experienced estate planning lawyer.

The exact distribution of the assets depends on the spouse and descendants.

When a deceased person is survived by a spouse and descendants, it is important to know the difference between community and separate property. Community property applies to assets acquired during the marriage (with a few exceptions). Separate property might include assets acquired before the marriage or by inheritance.

There are several inheritance situations that apply when a deceased’s spouse and children are alive:

  • If there is only a spouse, the probate estate goes to the spouse.
  • If the descendants are the deceased’s and spouse’s, the probate estate goes to the spouse.
  • If the descendants are the deceased’s, but not the deceased’s and spouse’s, the probate estate is split between the spouse and the descendants.

Descendants eligible to receive the deceased’s estate include biological and adopted children. Stepchildren not legally adopted by the deceased and biological children adopted by another party are not included in the estate distribution.

There is a procedure for situations where the deceased is not married.

When the deceased is not married and does not have any descendants, there are two common inheritance situations:

  • If the deceased is survived by their parents, the parents inherit the probate estate.
  • If the deceased is not survived by their parents but is survived by their siblings, the siblings inherit the probate estate.

There are exceptions to these situations, such as if a relative intentionally causes the deceased’s death or does not live 120 hours after the deceased’s death. To see if other exceptions apply, you should speak to an experienced estate planning lawyer.

Some assets may not be included in the estate.

Not all assets are part of the inheritance. If the asset is part of a living trust or is an asset with a named beneficiary, the asset goes to the named beneficiary. Some real estate, 401Ks, and other accounts may not follow intestate succession.

The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of future results. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and the receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney.