A power of attorney is a powerful tool — not for the person whom you name as your agent, but for you. A common misconception that many people have is that in creating a power of attorney, you relinquish control of what’s specified in the documents. In reality, your agent only holds that power should you ever become incapacitated or otherwise unable to manage your affairs.
Establishing a power of attorney is a critical component of any estate plan. While the powers you grant only take effect upon your death, there are different types of powers of attorney that can be highly beneficial while you are alive. Given that bestow vital responsibilities when appointing a power of attorney, it is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney is always a wise choice.
For more than 30 years, Attorney Robert Taylor-Manning has helped hundreds of clients in Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, and Walla Walla, Washington, as well as in Portland, Oregon understand and create powers of attorney. He can provide you with experienced legal counsel as you make your decision to grant responsibilities to a trusted individual whom you may need to call upon someday to manage your financial affairs or make medical decisions on your behalf.
Under Washington law, a power of attorney is defined as a document that “grants authority to an agent to act in the place of the principal.” The principal is the person granting authority to the agent. The agent, also referred to as the “attorney-in-fact,” is the person to whom the authority is granted.
The power of attorney document specifies the limits of the agent’s authority regarding the initiation and duration of the authority granted and the areas over which the agent has authority to make decisions. Powers of attorney must be in writing and signed by the principal. The principal’s signature must be witnessed and signed by a notary public or other person authorized by law to acknowledge signatures, or by two competent witnesses who are not care providers for the principal and are not related by blood, marriage, or domestic partnership.
Under Washington law, there are five types of powers of attorney:
General - A general power of attorney allows your agent to act on your behalf in non-medical matters you specify until you become incapacitated.
Durable - A durable power of attorney allows your agent to act on your behalf in non-medical matters as specified even after you have become incapacitated.
Springing - A springing power of attorney “springs” into action upon the occurrence of a specific event, such as a medical emergency.
Limited - A limited power of attorney grants authority to your agent to act on your behalf in non-medical matters for a specific time. For example, if you are out of the country or under anesthesia.
Healthcare - A healthcare or medical power of attorney grants authority to your agent to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself.
A power of attorney is important to have in place for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most important is because it can ensure that your financial and/or personal business will be carried on, even if you are unable to do so due to incapacitation, disability, or distance. Having a power of attorney in place can give you peace of mind that your wishes will be followed under any circumstance.
The only legal requirements for choosing a power of attorney is that the person is of the age of majority and not incapacitated. You may otherwise appoint anyone you want to serve as your power of attorney, however, there are few things you will want to consider:
Appoint Someone You Trust - First and foremost, your power of attorney should be someone you trust. The integrity of your attorney-in-fact is more important than any educational or professional background.
Consider a Family Member - People often name spouses or children as their attorney-in-fact because they are close to them and trust them to carry out their duties exactly as requested without hesitation.
Appoint Someone Near You - Although your attorney-in-fact need not live in the same town or state as you do, carrying out the duties might require that your power of attorney deal with matters locally. For example, dealing with a local bank or local real estate property.
Consider More Than One Agent - You can appoint more than one attorney-in-fact to serve simultaneously, although more than two could prove problematic. It is prudent to appoint a successor should the designated attorney-in-fact be unable to carry out their responsibilities for any reason.
Seek The Help of an Attorney - All states recognize powers of attorney; however, the laws and rules may differ from state to state. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you navigate statutory differences when you grant a power of attorney if you anticipate that authority may be used in other states.
No one needs to hold a law degree to serve as your power of attorney. They merely need to be someone you trust to make vital decisions on your behalf as you wish for them to be made. A knowledgeable and experienced estate planning attorney can provide you with insight and information that will help you make all of the informed decisions needed to complete the process.
At the Law Offices of Robert Taylor-Manning, you will receive reliable legal counsel for all of your estate planning needs, including powers of attorney. With over 30 years of experience, attorney Robert Taylor-Manning has the knowledge and experience needed to answer all of your questions and provide you with the reliable guidance you need. Call or reach out today to schedule your own case consultation.
If you’re considering establishing a power of attorney, start with an estate planning attorney you can trust. Countless clients in Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, and Walla Walla, Washington, as well as Portland, Oregon have turned to Attorney Robert Taylor-Manning for more than 30 years. He is dedicated to helping individuals and their families plan for the future through strategic estate planning. Call the Law Offices of Robert Taylor-Manning today to schedule your own case evaluation and learn more about powers of attorney and other estate planning tools.