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What is a Washington Power of Attorney?

A Washington power of attorney is a legal form that acts as the authorization for an individual, known as the agent or attorney-in-fact, to make financial decisions, healthcare decisions, real estate decisions, or estate decisions on behalf of the person granting this authority. A Washington POA is often used for estate planning purposes. There are many other instances where a POA is a useful tool.

Quick Reference:

The person granting permission is referred to as the principal, donor, or grantor.

The person receiving authorization is known as the agent or the attorney-in-fact.

WA POA Laws:

Washington power of attorney forms must comply with RCW Chapter 11 of Washington law. These laws specifically outline the parameters to create a legally enforceable power of attorney and ensures that the form, as well as its duties are protected under the law. Here are some of the state law's power of attorney requirements:

  • The document must be in writing, it cannot be a verbal agreement
  • The principal must designate another consenting adult as their attorney-in-fact
  • If the principal wishes for the power of attorney to be "durable," it must clearly state such provision (see definition of a durable power of attorney below)
  • The principal must sign the document in front of two witnesses, neither of which may be a home care provider or a care provider for the nursing facility, skilled care facility, or hospital facility where the principal lives or currently stays in
  • The signature of the principal is believed to be authentic when it is done in front of a notary public
  • The principal must be at least 18 years of age
  • The principal must be of sound mind and understand what they are signing

The principal may designate which powers the agent does and does not have as well as terminate the power of attorney.

A power of attorney terminates when:

  • The principal dies
  • The principal is declared to be incapaciated
  • The principal revokes the power of attorney
  • The purpose of the power of attorney is considered fulfilled and expires because of the date listed within the document
  • The agent steps down or dies and there is no co-agent or successor agent named

Why Would You Use a Washington Power of Attorney Form?

There are many reasons why someone would use a Washington power of attorney form to give someone the authority to make decisions related to their tangible personal property, financial institution transitions, tax matters, or their well-being. Some of those reasons include:

  • Age, mental health reasons, and illnesses. They may want their affairs handled in specific ways. It is generally advised that everyone from those with terminal illnesses to those in perfect health establish the proper powers of attorney to have their matters appropriately handled and their wishes fulfilled.
  • A person with a mental illness may require a different type of power of attorney than someone with a terminal illness.
  • A person with dependent children may require a different power of attorney than a person without dependent children.

Each person’s power of attorney needs may vary. Thankfully, there are several types of power of attorney documents. Before you decide to use a power of attorney, you should seek legal advice. Ask about the best POA to suit your needs and how to revoke the document if it becomes necessary. Here are a few of the most common.

General Power of Attorney

A general power of attorney grants a single individual the authority to handle financial matters and other decisions on the principal's behalf.

  • This authorization terminates if the principal becomes incapacitated or if they pass away. It is very important that the principal chooses an agent they know will act in good faith because they will be able to make decisions on their behalf.

Washington Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney is an "extended version" of a general power of attorney because it goes beyond the parameters of a general power of attorney.

  • The term "durable" comes from the fact that this authorization continues over the principal if they were to become disabled or incapacitated. The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services suggests that the best use for a durable power of attorney is for healthcare decisions. Once executed, it should be provided to your attending physician if it is used for healthcare purposes.

Limited (Springing) Power of Attorney

A limited or springing power of attorney grants limited power based on the principal's wishes. When springing, the power of attorney only “springs” into effect in specified circumstances.

  • In many cases, an agent will have power to handle finances or make medical decisions, but will not have authority to do other things such as sell property (depending on what the principal specifies).

Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney

A durable healthcare power of attorney grants power to the agent to make important healthcare decisions on the principal’s behalf should they become incapacitated or unable to make such decisions.

  • For instance, if the principal were to suffer from Alzheimer's or dementia and not be in the right frame of mind to give medical consent for certain treatments. While this is an important document, it does have its limitations. It is similar to, although not the same as, a Living Will or an Advance Directive. The Washington State Department of Social and Healthcare Services recommends that all adults get a Living Will.

Guardian of Minor Child Power of Attorney

A guardianship of a minor child power of attorney allows a parent or guardian to grant decision-making rights over their child to a temporary guardian in the case that the parent may not be present during a medical emergency.

  • This form is generally used if the parent must leave the country for a period of time or if the child is traveling or living with another adult on a temporary basis.

Real Estate Power of Attorney

A real estate power of attorney grants power to the agent, allowing them to buy, sell, and manage real estate on the principal’s behalf.

  • Before entering into this type of POA, legal services may be beneficial because they can help you determine exactly which type of POA is the right one for your circumstances. This type of POA must be notarized.

Tax Power of Attorney

A tax power of attorney allows the agent, who is usually a qualified individual such as an accountant, to prepare and submit tax information to the Department of Revenue on behalf of the principal.

  • Washington recognizes Form 2848 to establish a tax power of attorney.

Vehicle Power of Attorney

A vehicle power of attorney allows the agent to buy, sell, and handle the necessary paperwork with the Washington Department of Licensing on the principal’s behalf related to a vehicle or vessel.

  • The official name of the state form is a Release of Interest. In some instances, it must be notarized.

Download a PDF or Word Template

Washington Power of Attorney

Washington Last Will and Testament

Washington Living Will

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