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Power of Attorney in Washington State: What You Need to Know

Deciding to set up an estate plan can be difficult, however, peace of mind can be priceless. 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 control the distribution of your assets upon passing. 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 can mean 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, while you still have capacity or, in the event that you lose capacity. You can choose a spouse or registered domestic partner, an adult child, a friend or, 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 usually 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 often becomes effective upon signing, most be 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

1. Durable power of attorney
The power of attorney is a legal document that allows one person (the agent) to make decisions on behalf another, usually because they are unable or unwilling. A durable POA means your representative will act in the event you become incapacitated. It is always recommended to state in your document whether or not you want your POA to be durable so there are no misunderstandings about its enforceability!

Non-durable power of attorney
While a DURABLE power of attorney can be a useful tool for estate planning, a Non-durable can also be useful possible to have one that isn’t. In these cases they may still serve other purposes such as giving your stock broker access and oversight on the investments you make every day since he/she will act until his license expires or she retires from their job at an earlier age than expected due to illness- this means being able put someone else’s needs before yours if something happens soon enough!

2. Springing power of attorney
The power of an POA is not always limited to personal or household use. You can appoint agents for business purposes as well, such that they may manage your company while you’re away on vacation!

A Springing a power of attorney can be an effective way to protect your loved ones in case you become incapacitated.

3. General power of attorney
With a general power of attorney, you can give your agent permission to act on behalf in any situation that is needed. This includes legal matters and financial transactions as well!

4. Financial power of attorney
A financial POA is considered an extremely powerful tool because it gives your agent authority to act for you regarding certain subject matters. For example, the power could be used for making decisions about finances and property- which could include anything from loans or investments or real estate.

You should decide how your agent will act in your behalf. You can give them only the power to handle certain tasks, like paying bills or managing property for example; but they also come with different levels of durability–you may prefer one type over another based on what’s most important to you!

5. Medical power of attorney
In Washington State, in the event of a future serious illness or incapacitating accident, an individual can express his or her wishes and instructions about future medical care through two written documents: a medical power of attorney or a living will.A medical power of attorney is a written document that is an essential element of estate planning. It is also known as a Durable Medical Power of Attorney for Health Care. In executing a medical power of attorney, you are appointing someone to make healthcare decisions for you in the event that you become incapacitated, unconscious, and unable to make such decisions by yourself. A medical power of attorney is durable. It will not go into effect unless you become incapacitated and are incapable of making healthcare decisions by yourself. It differs from a regular power of attorney in that it will not expire at a prescribed date in time and that it remains valid even if you become incapacitated.

In a medical power of attorney, you should designate as your representative someone whom you faithfully trust to carry out your healthcare wishes. You should not appoint someone whom you believe that for whatever reason will disregard or change them. In a medical power of attorney, the anticipated duration of your incapacity is irrelevant. Your medical representative will be able to act on your behalf whether your incapacity is temporary or permanent.

The requirements for a valid and enforceable Medical Power of Attorney are as follows:

  • The individual who will sign the document and seeks its enforcement (the grantor) must be at least 18 years of age;
  • That individual must be mentally competent and understand the contents of the document;
  • The document must clearly state when it will go into effect;
  • The document must be witnessed and signed by two individuals, in the presence of a notary;
  • The person who will hold the durable power of attorney (the agent), must be designated; and
  • The health care directives to be followed should be clearly set forth.

The skillful attorneys at Evergreen Elder Law have extensive experience in drafting medical powers of attorney that will be recognized and enforced in Washington State.  With their assistance, you will have the peace of mind in knowing that a reliable individual that you trust will step in and make these important decisions on your behalf, and that your wishes will be respected and carried out.

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 Should Have 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.

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Evergreen Elder Law is committed to helping you create comprehensive legal, financial, and physical 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 as you or a loved one makes important decisions for your family and future.

Let us provide you with a free 60-minute consultation. We are available throughout the week by phone and e-mail. Contact us now to set up the initial consultation, and we will make meeting with us easy. We welcome the opportunity to meet with you to come up with the best plan to meet your needs. We are available in-person or via tele-conference.

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