Do you need a will AND a power of attorney?

If you’re like most people, when you think of “estate planning,” you may think it’s as simple as creating and signing a single document: a last will and testament. However, an effective estate plan contains much more than just a will – there are several other important components to ensure your future is protected no matter what happens.

At Margerie Law, I help people at any stage of life craft custom estate plans to secure their futures. Whether you are expecting your first child or planning for your golden years, having a comprehensive estate plan in place (with the help of Milwaukee’s favorite estate planning lawyer) will give you peace of mind that the people and things you care about are protected.

If you’re unsure what types of documents you need in your estate plan, read on to learn more about two of the most important – wills and powers of attorney – and how they work together.

Last Will and Testament

A last will and testament (a “will”), is a legal document that outlines your wishes for the following:

  • Who will perform the role of guardian for your minor children should you pass away.
  • What will happen to your assets, including named beneficiaries.
  • Who will act as your executor, ensuring your wishes as outlined in the will are seen through.

These are three of the most significant decisions you will make in your life. Without a will, the court system makes these decisions on your behalf which is a bad thing for two reasons: one, you may not like their choices and, two, your grieving family will have the added stress of dealing with the courts through this decision-making process after your passing.

Power of Attorney

“Power of Attorney” is a term for several types of legal documents that are important parts of any estate plan. Generally, a power of attorney allows you to name an individual (known as an “agent”) who will have the authorization to make important decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so for yourself. The most important function of a power of attorney is that you get to decide who fills this role – without this document, the courts will decide on your behalf (and you may not like their choice).

As stated above, there are several types of powers of attorney and you have options when it comes to selecting the right types for you. At Margerie Law, I generally prescribe folks draft a durable power of attorney for both finances and healthcare decisions. You may select the same person to act as your agent for both financial and healthcare decisions, or you may select two different people depending on their strengths. Your financial agent may be a person who is detail-oriented and good with money, while your healthcare agent may be someone who is familiar with your health history but will not be so emotionally distraught should something happen to you that they cannot give clear direction to medical professionals to ensure your wishes surrounding your care are met.

Why do you need both a will and powers of attorney? 

The answer to this question is simple: because they serve different, yet very important, functions. A will outlines what should happen to your assets and who should care for your children should you pass away. A power of attorney dictates who has the authority to make decisions for you in the event that you are still alive but unable to do so for yourself. While it is no fun to think about either of these situations, it is critical that you don’t leave these decisions up to the courts or leave your family unprepared.

I’m Paul Margerie, an experienced estate planning lawyer helping individuals and families in Wauwatosa, Milwaukee, Waukesha, and beyond plan for and protect their futures. No matter where you are in life, I can help you develop a comprehensive, custom estate plan that secures what’s most important to you: your family, your assets, and your interests. Give me a call today to get started.