Advanced Directives are documents that communicate your wishes to others. They give your family, friends, and professionals direction on what you may want or not want. The following are forms of Advanced Directives:
Supported Decision-Making is a way for individuals with disabilities to get help from trusted family members, friends, and professionals, to help them understand the situations and choices they face so they can make their own decisions. Supported Decision-Making enables people with disabilities to ask for support where and when they need it. Supported Decision-Making is not a form of Guardianship or Power of Attorney. Powers of Attorney, respresentative payees, and release of information forms can also help families provide the needed supports and safeguards without going to court for Guardianship, when appropriate. The Board for People with Developmental Disabilities has additional information on Support Decision-Making available at:
You can get the form online at: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/forms/f02377.pdf
or call 608-266-5395, or contact the ADRC of Winnebago County. Keep in mind, a Supported Decision-Making document does not replace a Power of Attorney for Health Care or Finance.
Health Care Power of Attorney (POAHC)
This is an important document that should be filled out by every capable adult. The State of Wisconsin is not a “next of kin” state, so decisions will not automatically default to a child, parent, or spouse. The form allows you to name a trusted adult as your health care decision maker (agent) in the event you become incapacitated and cannot make decisions for yourself. It also provides an opportunity for you to express preferences about your care. You can list a second adult as a backup in the event that the first person listed as agent is not available. This document only takes effect when two doctors agree that you are indeed incapacitated and cannot make your own decisions. You can get this legal form online at https://gwaar.org/guardianship-resources or contact the ADRC of Winnebago County.
Power of Attorney for Finances (POAF)
A Power of Attorney for Finances allows you to choose a trusted adult who will manage or help you manage your money and assets. You determine what money or assets you want that person, called an agent, to have authority over.
The point at which your agent’s authority becomes effective depends on the language you use in your Power of Attorney for Finances. If you give your agent “immediate power,” your agent’s power will start when you sign the document. Even if you sign a document granting your agent immediate power, you may continue to handle all of your own property and finances as long as you are able. Essentially, either you or your agent makes decisions about your finances.
You can visit the website: https://gwaar.org/guardianship-resources to print the form. The form will need to be notarized. The ADRC of Winnebago County can provide you with this document. You may hire a lawyer to draft a document that fits your needs as well.
What do I do with my Power of Attorney forms once they are completed?
Make copies! A copy is just as valid as the original
People to give copies to:
- Doctor's office
- The agents you appoint
- Your family/close friends
- Your attorney (if you have one)
- Keep a copy for yourself and put in a safe place (safety deposit box, safe, special folder in your desk)
It is important to review your documents occasionally. Recommendations on when to review are the 5 D's:
- Decade: Review your documents at least every ten (10) years.
- Death: Review your document when you have the death of a family member or close friend.
- Diagnosis: A new medical diagnosis or medical condition may make you change the ways you look at your health care.
- Divorce: If you have gotten divorced, you may want to look at who your agents are on your document.
- Decline: If you have had a decline in your ability to care for yourself, you may want to revisit your documents to ensure your wishes have stayed the same.
Guardian of the Person/Estate
The most restrictive decision-making support is Guardian of the Person/Estate. This type of guardianship is set up when a person is unable to make decisions that meet their needs for physical health/safety or finances. Guardianship is often pursued in cases when there is no Power of Attorney document and a document can no longer be completed due to the person’s incapacity to do so. If this is the situation, an alternative decision maker, called a guardian, is legally appointed to make decisions for that person, called the ward.
Who determines the need for guardianship?
The need for guardianship is determined by a judge through a legal proceeding. A medical doctor (MD) or a PhD level psychologist must conduct an evaluation of a person’s competence. The doctor makes recommendations to the court, but it is the judge that makes the legal determination that the person placed under guardianship is incompetent and unable to make his or her own decisions. Physical disability and/or poor judgment without a legal finding of mental incompetence are not sufficient reasons to establish guardianship. If you have questions regarding guardianship, you can refer to the Guardianship Support Center (information below) or contact the ADRC and ask to speak to an Adult Protective Service worker.
The Guardianship Support Center
The Guardianship Support Center provides information on issues related to guardianship, protective placement, Powers of Attorney, etc.
- Toll-free helpline 855-409-9410
Looking to complete your Advanced Directives with an attorney?
Some individuals would like these documents created with an elder law attorney who also may assist them with some estate planning. You can find a listing of attorneys who can assist you with this through the State Bar of WI – Lawyer Referral and Information Services. This program offers consultation with a legal assistant to help determine if you require an attorney and provide you with direction on how to proceed.
Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)
If you have multiple medical issues, it is important to talk to your doctor about your code status. What would you want to happen if your heart were to stop? Would you want CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation)? Start by having a conversation with your doctor. Here is a link to learn more about what a DNR order is: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/ems/dnr.htm