Estate Planning 101

Getting Power of Attorney for an Elderly Parent in Wisconsin

This guide will delve into the various aspects of acquiring a Power of Attorney for an elderly parent in Wisconsin, from the basics to the specifics of unique situations including dementia, mental illness, and hospitalization.
September 14, 2023

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As our parents age, they may require assistance in managing their financial and personal affairs. In Wisconsin, one of the ways to provide this help is by obtaining a Power of Attorney (POA). Understanding the process and requirements in Wisconsin can help ensure your parent's wishes are respected and their interests are protected.

The Process of Getting POA for a Parent in Wisconsin

Obtaining a POA for a parent in Wisconsin involves several steps. Understanding these steps can help you navigate the process and ensure your parent's interests are protected. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Understand the Types of POA: Wisconsin recognizes different types of POAs. A General POA gives wide-ranging powers to a person (known as an agent) to act on behalf of your parent. A Durable POA continues to be effective even if your parent becomes incapacitated. A Healthcare POA allows the agent to make healthcare decisions when your parent can't.
  2. Discuss with Your Parent: It’s important to talk to your parent about their wishes and who they would trust to make decisions on their behalf. These discussions can be sensitive, so handle them with care.
  3. Select an Agent: The agent should be a trustworthy person who understands your parent's wishes and is willing to act in their best interest. This could be a family member, a close friend, or a professional like an attorney.
  4. Prepare the POA Document: The next step is to draft the POA document. It should clearly define the powers given to the agent, when these powers begin, and any limitations on the powers.
  5. Legal Formalities: In Wisconsin, the POA document must be signed by your parent (the principal) in the presence of a notary public. Two adult witnesses who are not the agent or the notary must also sign the document.
  6. Store the Document Safely: Keep the original POA document in a safe but accessible place. Provide copies to the agent, alternate agents, and any institutions like banks or healthcare providers that might need it.
  7. Review Regularly: Regularly review the POA and make changes if necessary, particularly if your parent's health or personal situation changes.

Do You Need a Lawyer to Get POA?

Given the legal scope and implications of a POA, you might wonder if you need a lawyer to draft this document. In Wisconsin, it's not legally required to hire a lawyer to draft a POA. However, there are factors you might want to consider:

  1. Complexity of the Situation: If your parent’s estate or financial situation is complex, having a lawyer might be beneficial. A lawyer can provide tailored advice and ensure that all legal bases are covered.
  2. Understanding Legal Language: If you're comfortable with legal terminology and how it applies to your situation, you might proceed without a lawyer. However, if you find the language confusing, a lawyer can help clarify these terms and ensure you understand the document you're preparing.
  3. Disputes: If there's potential for disputes among family members about the POA, having a lawyer can help navigate these issues. They can provide neutral advice and ensure the document is legally sound.
  4. Elder Law Issues: Elder law can be a complex field with its own set of rules and regulations. If your parent has unique needs, such as long-term care planning or Medicaid eligibility, an elder law attorney could be helpful.

Getting POA for a Relative with Dementia

When a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, it becomes crucial to obtain a POA to protect their interests. Here's how you can navigate the process of getting a POA for a relative with dementia in Wisconsin:

  1. Timing is Key: A person granting a POA must be of 'sound mind' when signing. Therefore, it’s important to discuss and execute a POA as soon as possible after a dementia diagnosis.
  2. Select the Right POA: In the case of dementia, a Durable POA is usually the best choice. This type of POA remains in effect even if your loved one becomes incapacitated, allowing the designated agent to make decisions on their behalf.
  3. Medical Evaluation: If your relative’s mental capacity is in question, consider having them evaluated by a medical professional before executing the POA. This can provide evidence of their competence at the time of signing.
  4. Legal Assistance: Due to the complexities involved, it's often beneficial to involve a lawyer. They can guide you through the process, ensuring all legal requirements are met and that the document is tailored to best serve your relative's needs.
  5. Sensitive Communication: Discussing a POA with a loved one suffering from dementia can be emotionally difficult. Ensure these conversations are handled with compassion, patience, and understanding.
  6. Regular Reviews: As dementia progresses, it may be necessary to review and adjust the POA. Regularly reassessing the situation will help ensure your loved one's needs are being adequately met.

Getting POA for Relatives in Comas or in Hospital

If a loved one is in a coma or hospitalized for an extended period, you may need to obtain a POA to manage their affairs. Let's look at how to navigate this challenging situation in Wisconsin:

  1. Incapacity and POA: A POA requires the principal to be of sound mind at the time of signing. If your relative is in a coma or otherwise incapacitated, they may not be able to legally grant a POA.
  2. Existing POA: If your relative had a Durable POA before becoming incapacitated, the designated agent can step in and make decisions on their behalf. This highlights the importance of advance planning.
  3. Guardianship or Conservatorship: If no POA exists and your relative is incapacitated, you may need to pursue a guardianship or conservatorship. This involves a court process where a judge appoints a guardian or conservator to make decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person.
  4. Medical POA or Healthcare Proxy: If your relative is hospitalized but still mentally capable, they might consider creating a Medical POA or healthcare proxy. This specifically allows the appointed agent to make healthcare decisions if the principal becomes unable to do so.
  5. Legal Assistance: Given the complexities of these situations, seeking legal advice is highly recommended. An attorney can guide you through the available options and help you choose the best course of action.
  6. Emotional Support: It’s an emotional time when a loved one is in a coma or hospital. Therefore, it's essential to seek emotional support for yourself, whether from friends, family, or professional counselors.

Making a POA for a Parent Online with Snug

Technology has simplified many traditionally complex tasks, including creating a POA. Online platforms like Snug allow you to draft a POA from the comfort of your home, saving time and effort. Here's how you can make a POA for a parent online using Snug:

  1. Understand Your Needs: Before you start, it's important to understand your specific needs. Snug provides the option to create general and medical powers of attorney.
  2. Create an Account: To get started, create an account on Snug. This will grant you access to their suite of tools and resources.
  3. Follow the Guided Process: Snug provides a step-by-step process to create your POA. This ensures all necessary information is included and that the document meets your specific needs.
  4. Review and Edit: Snug allows you to review and edit the document as necessary. This ensures that the final POA accurately reflects your parent's wishes and the powers granted to the agent.
  5. Legal Validation: Once you're satisfied with the document, you can print it out. Remember, for the POA to be legally valid in Wisconsin, it must be signed by your parent in the presence of a notary public and two adult witnesses.
  6. Store Safely: After validation, Snug offers safe and secure storage for your documents. This ensures that the POA is readily available when needed.

By using Snug, you're not only making the process of creating a POA more efficient, but you're also ensuring that the document is legally sound. Snug's platform is designed to help you navigate the complexities of estate planning, providing peace of mind that your parent's interests are well protected. Remember, it's always a good idea to consult with a legal professional if you have specific questions or concerns.