3 Things to Know About Powers of Attorney
Powers of attorney are just a single component of a well-designed estate planning package. Within such a package, you will usually find a living trust, wills, financial durable powers of attorney, as well as healthcare directives.
Powers of attorney can be thought of as a piece of legal documentation, which states that, for example, if you ever become mentally debilitated, you will nominate one or more individuals to make important decisions for you. This would be very useful if you one day find yourself 90 years old and suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia or are in a coma, and thus incapable of making any decisions on your own.
Generally, there are two types of power of attorney: general and durable. You would usually execute a general power of attorney to allow your attorney-in-fact to take action on your behalf for the reason that, though you may be perfectly capable of doing so, some condition exists that would prevent you from overseeing your own affairs. In contrast, a power of attorney that is durable allows your attorney-in-fact to act on your behalf even if you become incapacitated.
If you have not yet created your own power of attorney to handle important financial decisions, you should consider doing so. You can then avoid the need for your loved ones to have to petition the court, which would be necessary for them to make decisions on your behalf.
The main concept for creating powers of attorney is to keep the courts from interfering in your affairs without your approval. If anything happens to you, a person of your choosing can begin to take control of your finances on your behalf. They can then make sure your bills are paid in a timely manner, pay your taxes for you, and generally just keep your affairs in order. By creating powers of attorney, you can delegate any individual the legal authority to handle about anything you choose.
You can decide the exact time your durable financial power of attorney will come into effect, which can be immediately – upon signing the documents, or only at the time you are deemed incapable of handling your own affairs.
There are many different entities that can determine someone’s incapacity. In some cases, a court of proper jurisdiction can deem you incapacitated. In medical situations your primary care provider (in some states this must be two non-primary care physicians under oath) can state that you are incapacitated for legal purposes. In any case, the first step is always to be determined or considered to be incapacitated. At this time, the power of attorney will shift to the agent that you have designated to act as your durable financial power of attorney.
In the state of Washington, Powers of Attorney may be used to:
- Make health-care decisions for you or your minor children;
- Buy or sell things;
- Manage a business;
- Collect debts;
- Invest money;
- Cash checks;
- Manage financial matters generally;
- Sue on behalf of the principal.
Do I Need A Lawyer To Prepare A Power Of Attorney?
There are no legal requirements that you must have your power of attorney prepared or reviewed by an accredited estate planning lawyer. However, we highly recommend that if you are giving any important legal powers over to another person, it would be wise to receive individual legal counsel before signing complicated legal forms.
It is also a good idea to have your power of attorney notarized. If you’d like to grant your attorney-in-fact the legal authority to also conduct applicable real estate deals on your behalf, then you have to have your document notarized in addition to having the information recorded at your county office.
The person signing the power of attorney documents should fully comprehend what everything means, as well as consider every risk and alternative available to them. If you’d like help preparing this important legal document, please contact our office at 509-328-2150 today for more information.
Read the specifics of Washington State’s Powers of Attorney Laws here: RCW 11.125.050 Powers of Attorney