Spousal Power of Attorney

Divorce Attorneys Assisting Milwaukee Residents

When a couple gets married, there are many different documents that they may execute that bestow certain privileges on their spouse. For instance, a wife may become the beneficiary of her husband’s life insurance policy, or a husband may be entitled to receive his wife’s 401k upon her death. Spouses often also name each other as executors of wills or give each other authorities such as the ability to make advanced medical decisions or a spousal power of attorney. While these types of arrangements are helpful during a marriage, they rarely continue after a divorce. It can be important to terminate these types of arrangements so that one partner cannot take advantage of the other. At Reddin & Singer, LLP, our Milwaukee divorce lawyers can advise you on how to ensure that a spousal designation of power of attorney is terminated after or during a divorce.

Abuse of Spousal Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney designation gives an individual the right to conduct business, make decisions, and sign documents on behalf of another individual. In Wisconsin, spouses may sign certain power of attorney forms, created by the government, which set out the extent of an individual’s authority to act on behalf of the other individual, including the ability to make decisions about taxes, bank accounts, the operation of a business, and the maintenance of a family. When broadly written, a power of attorney allows an agent to wield immense authority over a spouse’s personal matters when the spouse does not have the ability to do so on their own.

Because of this power and authority, powers of attorney can be abused by spouses who are seeking revenge or intending harm against their former spouse. The spouse holding the spousal power of attorney could buy a car in the other spouse’s name and sign the contract, or they could move funds into a different bank account without the other spouse’s knowledge. A power of attorney can also be used to gain access to sensitive financial information or descriptions of assets that can be used against you in a divorce.

Terminating a Power of Attorney in a Divorce

Thankfully, the state of Wisconsin is progressive when it comes to terminating powers of attorney upon divorce. While some states require that the spouse who gave the power of attorney take steps to affirmatively revoke it, Wisconsin provides that powers of attorney automatically terminate upon divorce or annulment. This means that when the divorce is finalized, the power of attorney becomes invalid.

Although the power of attorney is invalid, banks and other important institutions are not automatically notified that a power of attorney has been terminated or revoked. For this reason, it is recommended that if you had a power of attorney with your spouse, you officially and formally revoke the power of attorney and then notify all of the relevant institutions of this revocation. This will ensure that your former spouse cannot exploit an entity’s ignorance by attempting to use the power of attorney even after the divorce. An official revocation can also act to terminate the power of attorney while divorce proceedings are ongoing, since automatic termination does not occur until the divorce is finalized. The easiest way to revoke a prior power of attorney is to execute a new power of attorney that specifically revokes the prior document and names a new, different individual as your power of attorney.

Contact a Milwaukee Lawyer During a Family Law Proceeding

If you are contemplating a divorce, you should carefully consider any prior legal documents that you may have signed with your spouse and attempt to obtain copies of those documents. If they grant your spouse certain privileges and authorities, you may wish to have those documents terminated or revoked. At Reddin & Singer, LLP, our family law attorneys can go over common Wisconsin documents, such as powers of attorney, with you and advise you on how to revoke them. Contact our office for more information at (414) 271-6400 or contact us online for a free appointment. We represent people in Milwaukee, Port Washington, Racine, West Bend, Waukesha, and other areas of Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington, and Waukesha Counties.