Deciding to set up an estate plan can be difficult, however, it provides peace of mind to you and your family. An Estate planning package can include a will & trust that appoints guardians for your children, estate administrators, charitable giving, and asset protection. Making these important decisions if often less onerous when you work with skilled and compassionate elder law lawyers who understand the emotional complexity inherent to these decisions and the applicable Washington State laws.
We all face uncertainty; it’s the nature of living. However, the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on family and financial security has illuminated the urgent need to consider estate planning now. It’s estimated that 68% of Americans do not presently have a will. Nearly half of Americans over the age of 55 do not have a will. Rather than have the laws of intestate succession and the courts distribute your assets, you should be in control.
You should be in control of the distribution of your assets. Dying without estate planning documents in place means that the Washington State laws of intestate succession govern distribution, a process that is overseen by the courts. Taking the time now to plan for your family’s future means less cost and more control later.
A Power of Attorney is an essential estate planning tool, and should be included with a will or trust. Evergreen Elder Law attorneys are here to help you create a comprehensive package of estate planning documents to conform to your wishes, financial needs, family structure, and goals. With estate planning in place, you can protect your assets and have peace of mind by planning for your future now.
What is a Power of Attorney?
Under Washington State law, a Power of Attorney allows you to choose a person to make medical and/or financial decisions on your behalf either while you still have capacity or later, in the event that you lose capacity. You can choose a spouse or registered domestic partner, an adult child, a friend, even a beneficiary of your will to serve as your personal agent through the Power of Attorney.
A Power of Attorney is revocable at any time while you still have capacity by providing written notice to your agent.
What are the Washington Power of Attorney Requirements?
In 2017, Washington State revised its Power of Attorney requirements to clear up ambiguities in the prior law and to better protect residents from abuse by the designated agent. The requirements for a valid Power of Attorney are:
- The document must be titled “Power of Attorney.”
- The document must be signed and dated by you and either notarized or witnessed by two disinterested people. The witnesses cannot be health care workers at a long-term care facility, blood relatives, or relatives by marriage.
- If you choose co-agents to make these important decisions on your behalf, the co-agents must act jointly unless the Power of Attorney specifically gives authority to the co-agents to act independently.
- To differentiate a General Power of Attorney from a Durable Power of Attorney, the document must state when it becomes operative. A General Power of Attorney becomes effective upon signing, witnessed by a notary or by two disinterested witnesses, and ends with revocation or your incapacity. A Durable Power of Attorney is effective through incapacity.
- A Medical Power of Attorney allows you to give your designated agent broad authority to make health care decisions on your behalf and can allow your agent access to information that would ordinarily be protected by the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act.
- Authority given to your spouse or registered domestic partner automatically terminates upon filing an action to dissolve the marriage or domestic partnership.
- You can specifically exonerate your chosen agent from liability for his or her actions, with some limitations. Often, if the agent hires an attorney or CPA, the agent is not liable for the acts of these professionals.
Washington State does not require that a Power of Attorney be registered with the state. Evergreen Elder Law can explain the requirements of Washington State Power of Attorney laws and can devise a General or Durable Power of Attorney that suits your specific needs and wishes.
Washington State Power of Attorney Laws
The Washington Uniform Power of Attorney Act, RCW 11.125 became effective on January 1, 2017. Its goal is to eliminate ambiguity and to provide safeguards from possible abuse by agents.
What are the Types of Powers of Attorney
There are two types: General and Durable.
- A General Power of Attorney takes effect immediately upon drafting and ends when you revoke it or become incapacitated.
- A Durable Power of Attorney is effective throughout incapacity and ends upon death when the provisions of your will or trust, or laws of intestacy take effect.
The elder law attorneys at Evergreen Elder Law can help you navigate the differences and choose the specifics of a Power of Attorney, and other estate planning documents best suited to you needs. You can change this designation or revoke this authority at any time while you still have the capacity with written notice to your agent.
Who Needs a Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney is an essential aspect of estate planning, and along with a will, or trust and a healthcare directive, can make the decision-making process easier for your family. With the uncertainty of the current world, wildfires, floods, and other unpredictable disasters, everyone should plan for their family’s future needs and make these essential decisions while able. Remember, a Power of Attorney can be changed or revoked at any time while you still have the capacity, and most importantly, you can create a Durable Power of Attorney so that it continues in force even if you are incapacitated.
Contact Evergreen Elder Law Today
Evergreen Elder Law is committed to helping you create comprehensive legal and financial security for you and your loved ones. Serving the Spokane, Tri Cities, and Coeur d’Alene regions, we have the knowledge, compassion, and professionalism to guide you in planning for the future, giving you peace of mind for your future.
Let us provide you with a free 60-minute consultation. We are available throughout the week by phone, e-mail or virtually. Contact us now to set up an initial consultation. We welcome the opportunity to meet with you to determine the best plan to meet your needs. We are available in-person, by phone, or virtual.