Many people in Washington select an agent to look after their affairs as they age. Appointing one or more agents with power of attorney in Washington to act on your behalf can be an effective planning tool in case of incapacitation or declining health.
State law requires agents to behave within certain parameters to ensure that they show proper care in executing their duties. A court can remove agents who do not uphold their legal responsibilities; the principal — you — can also revoke power of attorney virtually any time.
Delegating your authority
When creating power of attorney, you have a wide degree of choice in which powers you grant an agent. You may grant a person authority to act on your behalf for a single transaction, for decisions of a certain type, for a duration of time or any combination of these. You may select a single person to handle your finances, health care and other issues, or you may select multiple individuals and grant them specific authorities. A power of attorney becomes durable if it is explicitly worded in the agreement that the agent will remain in their role beyond the principal’s incapacitation. In Washington, a power of attorney expires in the case by default, so it is a good idea to consider this when framing your contract.
Understanding common arrangements
Commonly, principals will select a single agent to handle all affairs, or they will select one to handle finances and one to handle their health care. When it comes to your finances, agents must exercise scrupulous diligence to care for your money. This includes taking advantage of benefits and tax breaks when possible. As long as agents uphold these duties to the best of their ability, the law grants them protections from liability.
A health care power of attorney will generally have the right to make medical decisions for you including where and when you receive treatment, which treatments you receive, who can visit you and more. You can limit this authority when you make the agreement or by creating a living will or advance directive. Agents are generally unable to override these.
Regardless of the way you delegate your authority, agents have the legal duty to act in good faith and in your best interest as far as they are able. Agents must keep and maintain detailed records of all actions on your behalf and must cooperate with others in your best interest. Agents may only act within the terms of the agreement that you make with them, so it is important to carefully consider how you phrase your power of attorney contract.