In the world of estate planning, Power of Attorney (POA) holds a significant place. This legal document allows a person (the principal) to delegate decision-making powers to another person or entity (the agent). Understanding the duration and termination of a POA is of paramount importance, especially in Wisconsin where the law has specific stipulations regarding the matter. A POA's lifespan primarily depends on the type - be it durable, springing, limited, or medical - and the specific conditions included within the document.
The lifespan of a Power of Attorney is usually stated in the document:
As per Wisconsin law, the duration of a POA is generally articulated within the document itself. This means a POA could end on a certain date, when a particular event transpires, or when the principal becomes incapacitated or dies. The principal can define these conditions during the drafting of the POA to meet their specific needs.
Different types of Power of Attorney have different durations:
Understanding the various types of POAs and their respective expiration rules is crucial. Each type of POA has unique characteristics and expiration rules.
- Durable Power of Attorney: This type of POA remains in effect even if the principal becomes mentally incapacitated. For example, if a principal is diagnosed with dementia, the durable POA will remain in effect, allowing the agent to make decisions on their behalf. However, as with all POAs, it ceases to be effective upon the principal's death.
- Springing Power of Attorney: A springing POA becomes active under specific conditions, typically when the principal is incapacitated. For instance, if a principal is in a coma, a springing POA would spring into action, allowing the agent to make decisions. The POA becomes invalid when the principal regains capacity, unless otherwise stated in the document.
- Limited Power of Attorney: Also known as a special POA, it is used for a specific purpose or for a limited period. For example, if a principal needs someone to handle their business transactions while they are unavailable, a limited POA could be used. Once the specific task is completed or the duration is over, the POA automatically ends.
- Medical Power of Attorney: This type of POA authorizes the agent to make medical decisions for the principal if they become unable to do so. This type of POA expires when the principal dies or revokes the POA, or when the principal regains the ability to make their own decisions.
Grasping these different types of POAs and their respective expiration rules can help individuals and their appointed agents to navigate the legal landscape of power of attorney in Wisconsin more effectively.
Revocation of a Power of Attorney:
If a principal decides to revoke a POA before its stated expiration date, they must follow specific legal procedures under Wisconsin law. Revoking a POA is not as simple as deciding one day that the agreement is over. It requires a proper understanding of legal procedures to ensure that all responsibilities are appropriately terminated.
- The principal must create a written notice of revocation. This document should include the principal's name, the agent's name, and the date the original POA was executed. This document must be signed and dated by the principal.
- The principal should then deliver this revocation notice to the agent. This can be done in person or through certified mail with return receipt requested, to ensure proof of delivery. It is also recommended to notify any third parties (like banks or other financial institutions) that may have been dealing with the agent under the authority of the POA.
Once these steps are completed, the revocation is generally effective immediately, and the agent no longer has the authority to act on behalf of the principal. However, in some cases, such as with a durable POA, the principal may need to record the revocation at the local county recorder's office where the original POA was filed.
It's important to note that if the principal is mentally incapacitated, they cannot legally revoke a POA. In such a case, a court may need to intervene to determine the validity of the revocation. If you are considering revoking a POA, it's always recommended to consult with an experienced lawyer to guide you through the process in compliance with Wisconsin law.
Power of Attorney after the principal's death:
Once the principal passes away, the POA generally becomes null and void. The agent does not have the power to handle the deceased's estate. This task falls to the executor mentioned in the deceased's will or to the administrator appointed by the probate court if no will exists.
The executor or administrator's role begins upon the principal's death, whereas the agent's role ends. The executor or administrator is responsible for gathering the deceased's assets, paying off any debts or taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries as specified in the will, all under the supervision of the probate court.
Trustees, on the other hand, are individuals or entities appointed to manage a trust established by the principal. Unlike a POA or executor, a trustee's role does not necessarily end with the death of the principal. Instead, their responsibilities continue as outlined in the terms of the trust agreement, which may include distributing the trust's assets to beneficiaries.
In some instances, the agent may also be named as the executor or trustee. In such cases, their responsibilities could extend beyond the principal's death, but their role changes. As an executor or trustee, they are no longer acting under the authority of the POA but rather under the authority of the will or trust agreement.