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Powers of Attorney for Healthcare Lawyer in Green Bay, Wisconsin

It is common for people to think about wills or trusts when they hear the words, “estate planning.” They think of estate planning as something you do when you are old or terminally ill in order to protect your assets after you pass away. 

Estate planning, however, also protects your wishes while you are still alive. You may be unable to express them if you are incapacitated, but powers of attorney can speak for you. Healthcare powers of attorney, in particular, will be your voice when you don’t have one.  

At Lewis & Van Sickle, LLC, we help our clients speak for themselves through thoughtful and tailored estate plans, including healthcare powers of attorney. If you live in Green Bay, Kewaunee, Oconto, Shawano, or Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, we can help you plan for the future and offer peace of mind to your family. 

What Do Powers of Attorney Do for Me? 

The maker of a power of attorney is the principal. The person appointed to act in the principal’s stead is the agent or attorney-in-fact. A power of attorney allows the agent to act in the principal’s stead, according to the responsibilities and authority granted by the principal. All powers of attorney end upon the death of the principal.  

There are three major types of powers of attorney: general, durable, and limited. Understanding the differences between them will help you understand how they can work for you.  

A general power of attorney grants authority to an agent to handle financial issues for the principal. For example, the principal may allow the agent authority to handle banking activities, sign certain contracts and documents, and other similar activities. This type of power of attorney is only valid so long as the principal is able to make decisions for themselves. If the principal becomes incapacitated or dies, the power of attorney is rendered invalid.  

If you need the power of attorney to remain in effect even if you become incapacitated, you need a durable power of attorney. Healthcare powers of attorney are durable because they are needed in times when the principal lacks the mental capacity to make their own decisions. Likewise, if you want your agent to be able to make decisions regarding your finances, property, and other related matters should you become incapacitated, you must execute a durable power of attorney rather than a general one.  

The third type is a limited power of attorney. These grant authority to an agent for highly specific activities and are usually not durable. For example, if you are traveling during a real estate transaction, you can grant authority to your agent to sign documents related to the transaction in your stead.  

Powers of attorney cannot grant an agent the authority to revise your will or other estate planning documents. Moreover, if the person you appointed to serve as your agent cannot or chooses not to, that agent cannot appoint someone to serve in their stead. A judge would need to make such an appointment. 

Plan for the Future

What Makes Powers of Attorney for Healthcare So Important?

Due to advances in science, technology, and medicine, people are living longer than ever before. However, they may not have the capability or mental capacity to speak for themselves while they are kept alive. A healthcare power of attorney gives you a voice.  

Healthcare decisions are extremely personal. Most of us want to be able to choose what lifesaving or life-sustaining measures are taken if we experience certain health crises. Moreover, most of us would prefer to be able to choose who makes sure our wishes are carried out. 

The power of attorney for healthcare is what is known as an “advance directive.” The other type of advance directive is the living will. The two serve unique purposes, so you should execute both in your estate plan.  

In a healthcare power of attorney, you grant someone authority to make healthcare decisions when you are unable to. The living will addresses specific lifesaving measures and treatment in the event you suffer from a terminal illness or condition. The living will may include such documents as a do not resuscitate order (DNR) and physician orders for life-sustaining treatment (POLST). Your healthcare power of attorney should make decisions based on the wishes you have expressed in a living will, which is why it is recommended that you have both. These items work together in an effective estate plan.  

Who Should I Appoint as My Healthcare Power of Attorney?

This is not a decision you should make lightly. Your estate planning attorney can help you understand some key considerations that will help you appoint the best agent for you.  

You can appoint any adult age 18 and older. They don’t have to be related to you and despite the title “attorney in fact,” they do not need to be a lawyer. The key requirement is that you trust them implicitly to not only carry out your wishes, but to be capable of doing so effectively and efficiently. For example, someone who breaks down in times of crisis may not be the best person for this position. 

What Does My Healthcare Power of Attorney Do?

It is the agent’s responsibility to act in good faith, making decisions that reflect the wishes of the principal. If there are no valid documents in which the principal expressed certain wishes, such as a DNR or living will, the agent must nonetheless make decisions in good faith. The attorney in fact may sign documents on behalf of the principal when required to carry out certain medical procedures or waivers. In addition, the agent may consent to the admission of the principal to a skilled nursing facility for a brief period if necessary for the principal’s recuperation. 

Powers of Attorney for Healthcare Lawyer in Green Bay, Wisconsin

The power of attorney for healthcare is an extremely powerful tool that will benefit you and your family immensely. Our firm is ready to provide you with the information you need to make wise decisions regarding your assets and your health. Reach out to our estate planning attorney at Lewis & Van Sickle, LLC in Green Bay to set up a consultation.