Five Things You Need to Know About Wisconsin Guardianship Law

woman walking with little girl

If you become incapacitated in Wisconsin, who is going to take care of you? This is a question many Americans are asking themselves in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Many families are wondering how they will function if a family member becomes incapacitated. 

If you do not have an estate plan in place that covers the possibility of incapacitation, you could face negative consequences. A guardianship or conservator proceeding will need to take place and a court will appoint a guardian for you. Understanding Wisconsin’s guardianship law is an important part of estate planning.

  • You can Choose a Guardian for Yourself

You might think that if you become incapacitated, you will not have any control over your circumstances. Many Wisconsin residents do not know that they can select a guardian for themselves. It is important to take some time thinking about who you would like to act as your guardian. After all, it needs to be someone who you trust inherently. After all, they will be able to make decisions for you on your behalf. Once you decide who to appoint, you will need to create a Financial Power of Attorney.

In a Financial Power of Attorney, you will authorize another person of your choosing to handle your financial affairs. A Financial Power of Attorney will allow your appointed person to do some or all of the following for you if you can no longer do so:

  • Sign checks in your name
  • Open a bank account in your name
  • Pay bills in your name
  • Enter into contracts on your behalf

In some cases, the Financial Power of Attorney will not be broad enough to cover all of the decisions you will need to make. In that circumstance, the court may appoint a guardian. Wisconsin’s guardianship will give priority to an agent through a Financial Power of Attorney. You could end up having a guardian that you do not trust appointed for you. That is why it is important to share your wishes with a Wisconsin court by having a financial power of attorney. 

  • You can Select a Guardian for Your Children in Wisconsin

It is difficult for parents to think about someone else raising their children if they pass away unexpectedly. Having children changes everything, including Wisconsin estate planning. Parents have the opportunity to choose a guardian for their children in their will or other estate planning documents. Doing so will make things much easier on your family should you pass away while they are still minors. 

A guardian for your minor child will step into your parenting shoes if you pass away or you become unable to take care of your child. Guardians play a significant role in your family’s life. Once you have decided who your child’s guardian will become, you will benefit from an experienced Wisconsin estate planning attorney. At Walny Legal, our lawyers can help you draft all of the documents you need to make your choice of guardian for your child legally binding. 

  • You Can File for Termination of a Guardianship in Wisconsin

Guardianships are not permanent. If someone is a current guardian of a minor, or if a parent of the child wants to terminate the guardianship, they can petition the court to terminate the guardianship. Perhaps you are the mother of a child and you think that the guardian is acting dangerously toward your child. Or perhaps, you have been appointed as the guardian of a child and you can no longer financially care for the child. 

You will need to petition the court to terminate the guardianship. You will need to submit all of the proper forms and call to schedule an appointment. At the appointment, a Wisconsin Staff Attorney will need to review your paperwork and determine if it is legally sufficient. 

While you can petition the court to terminate a guardianship without an attorney, you will benefit from hiring an experienced attorney to represent your best interests. Attorneys will help you during the hearing process by helping you present evidence and ask the necessary questions. 

  • Wisconsin Recognizes Two Types of Minor Guardianship

Wisconsin estate planning laws provide two different types of legal minor guardianship, chapter 48 guardianships, and chapter 54 guardianships. Chapter 48 guardianships involve children under the court’s jurisdiction. Chapter 54 guardianships involve the guardianship of incompetent adults. Additionally, Chapter 54 guardianships involve guardianships of the person and guardianship of the estate. When parents pass away, both the children will need a guardian and the parents’ estate will also need a guardian until the children become adults. 

  • Guardianships can be Temporary or Permanent

Under Wisconsin law, guardianships can be temporary or permanent. Temporary guardianships are only in effect for 60 days. Courts are permitted to make one 60 day extension for “good cause.” All other guardianships are considered permanent guardianships. When 60 to 120-day guardianships are not enough, then a permanent guardianship might become necessary. 

Temporary guardianship may be necessary when the court cannot locate the parent or guardian, or when the parent or guardian refuses to provide consent for an imperative service, such as necessary medical care, or counseling. When parents pass away unexpectedly, courts often issue a temporary guardianship while they work to appoint a permanent guardianship. 

Permanent guardianship is required when the court knows that the parent is not available or willing to address the child’s needs. Or, when the guardian or parent has not made themselves available for an extended time, or when both parents or the guardian has died. 

Contact Our Guardianship Lawyers Today

At Walny Legal, we understand how difficult guardianship issues can be for those involved. We work diligently to help our clients through the entire guardianship process. Whatever your guardianship needs might be, our lawyers can help significantly. Contact our Wisconsin estate planning law firm today to schedule your initial consultation and learn how we can help you today.

Thursday, April 30, 2020
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