Powers of Attorney: For Money and for Health
What’s the difference between a healthcare and financial power of attorney?
Eau Claire County Aging & Disability Resource Center
“Power of Attorney” sounds significant and complex, but it doesn’t have to be. Designating this power to a trusted spouse, family member, or friend is essential to making sure your interests are protected in the case of severe disability or deterioration of mental function.
What is it?
HEALTH CARE: A health care power of attorney document makes it possible for adults in Wisconsin to authorize other individuals (called health care agents) to make health care decisions on their behalf only if they are no longer able to so.
FINANCIAL: A financial power of attorney document authorizes another person (called an agent or attorney-in-fact) to handle the financial affairs of the person creating the document (called the principal).
Wow does it help me?
HEALTH CARE: This is an extremely important pre-planning tool to allow you to set out some of your wishes and pick your own decision-maker. If you do not have this document and need someone to make decisions on your behalf, a costly guardianship will have to be pursued in court. Having a proper power of attorney for health care can prevent the need for guardianship and save your family money.
FINANCIAL: This is an important pre-planning tool to allow you choose a person you trust to handle your financial affairs. If you do not have this document or other suitable arrangements made (e.g., a trust or the appointment of a representative payee), a Guardian of the Estate must be appointed if the principal loses the mental ability to make financial decisions.
Who needs one?
HEALTH CARE: Everyone over the age of 18. Loss of ability to make health care decisions can happen at any age; likelihood increases with age or illness.
FINANCIAL: Everyone over the age of 18. Loss of ability to handle financial affairs can happen at any age; likelihood increases with age or illness.
When does it go into effect?
HEALTH CARE: Only when you are no longer able to make complex medical decisions by reason of “incapacity.” Incapacity means two doctors have examined you and determined that either temporarily or permanently you are not able to make your medical decisions. This is when the document is activated. Note: It can also be deactivated if you regain your abilities.
FINANCIAL: It is effective immediately unless otherwise specified. It must be “durable,” meaning your agent has the authority to act on your behalf even if you become temporarily or permanently unable to make your own decisions. The current statutory state form for a power of attorney for finance is automatically durable.
What does it cost?
HEALTH CARE: FREE! An attorney can also complete the document, but they will charge a fee. It does not need to be notarized, but it must be witnessed at the same time you sign it by two non-family adults who are not providing health care to you.
FINANCIAL: FREE! An attorney can also complete the document, but they will charge a fee. It does need to be notarized at the time you sign it.
Who should have a copy?
HEALTH CARE: Keep the original for yourself in an easily-accessible location. Provide a copy to each of the “agents” and your doctor’s office and/or hospital.
FINANCIAL: Keep the original for yourself in an easily-accessible location. Provide a copy to each of the “agents” so they can provide this to financial institutions upon request.
Where can I get the forms?
• Aging & Disability Resource Center
• ADRC does not provide this form