What Do I Need to Know about a Power of Attorney in WA State?

What Do I Need to Know about a Power of Attorney in WA State?

A power of attorney gives a loved one the legal authority to handle your healthcare, financial, or other important decisions for you if you’re unable to. This can help you both during major life events when you need extra help or if you’re physically or mentally unable to make decisions on your own.

What Exactly is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document that grants the named person the power to take the actions you list in the document. Doctors, financial institutions, schools, and others honor instructions from the power of attorney as if they were coming from you. Without this document, they would usually be legally bound to ignore the power of attorney’s instructions even if they believe that’s what you would want.

A power of attorney is not actually an attorney and doesn’t have to be a lawyer. It can be anyone you trust. The name just means they have similar powers to what you might grant to an attorney.

What Does a Power of Attorney Cover?

A power of attorney can cover virtually all decisions, or it can cover one specific action. What you include is up to you. Power of attorney powers might include the following.

  • Healthcare decisions
  • Care of your children
  • Paying your bills
  • Managing your finances, including selling assets or investments to cover expenses
  • Operating your business
  • Making decisions in litigation on your behalf (similar to how you would instruct an attorney rather than the actual legal work)

What Form Does a Power of Attorney Need?

You can find many templates and examples, but there is no specific form to use. The power of attorney just needs to be clear that it’s a power of attorney, name who you’re choosing as your agent, and list the powers you’re granting that person. It’s preferable to have it notarized so that there’s no question about its validity. You can sign in front of two witnesses rather than a notary if you need to.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney?

A durable power of attorney is a power of attorney that lasts even if you’re incapacitated due to illness or accident. Not all powers of attorney are durable. For example, someone working abroad may designate someone to manage their affairs back home without making the power of attorney durable.

A power of attorney that isn’t durable terminates on your incapacitation. To be durable, the form must include your intent that it be durable.

What Do You Do With a Power of Attorney?

Your agent will need to present the power of attorney form to prove that they’re authorized to act on your behalf. You should keep at least one copy for yourself with additional copies located wherever you have copies of your other important documents. This allows your family to be aware of the power of attorney if something happens to you.

Can You Cancel a Power of Attorney?

You can cancel a power of attorney at any time for any reason. You just need to notify your agent. You may also wish to notify anyone that your agent was working with if you wish to make sure they no longer honor your agent’s instructions.

How Long Does a Power of Attorney Last?

A power of attorney might be indefinite, last for a specific amount of time, last until something happens, or only cover a specific action or event. You decide this when you create your power of attorney. No matter which option you choose, you still retain the right to cancel it early.

In the case of a durable power of attorney, it will be in effect from the time a physician or court declares you are incapacitated and last until death. You can cancel it if you recover and are competent to do so.

What Happens to a Power of Attorney When the Principal Dies?

If you die, your agent’s powers cease when they learn of your death. A power of attorney cannot be used to handle your estate even if you try to include that in your power of attorney. You would need to rely on a will or other planning documents.

What Must a Power of Attorney Do?

A power of attorney must act in your best interests. They cannot use your funds for their own benefit. When authorized to make medical decisions, they must follow your wishes as they understand them even if they would choose a different course of action.

What Can’t a Power of Attorney Do?

There are several things that you can’t include in a power of attorney under Washington law. These include several very important medical and legal decisions.

  • Medical: Amputation, shock therapy, life support decisions, or institutionalization. You’d need an advanced healthcare directive instead.
  • Financial: Changing life insurance beneficiaries, modifying a community property agreement, or making monetary gifts unless these actions are specifically included in the power of attorney. Modifying a will or voting in elections can never be included.

What if there is a Disagreement Over a Power of Attorney?

Your agent must follow your instructions, and you can remove your agent at any time. In case of a durable power of attorney where you’re incapacitated, your family can petition a court to invalidate the power of attorney or to force the agent to act in accordance with the instructions in the document.

Is an Out-of-State Power of Attorney Valid?

Most states will honor a power of attorney from another state at least on a temporary basis. If you become a resident of a new state, you should make sure your power of attorney meets the requirements for that state.

What if a Power of Attorney Names Two Agents?

A power of attorney may name one or more agents. If you name multiple agents, they must act jointly and agree on all decisions. You can also allow them to act independently, meaning each can act without input by the other(s), if you specifically state this in your power of attorney.

What is the Difference Between a Power of Attorney and a Living Will?

A living will or advanced healthcare directive spells out what major medical decisions you’d want made on your behalf. These documents are used by your doctors and others to understand your wishes.

A power of attorney’s main job is to designate a specific person you want making decisions for you rather than the specific decisions to be made. While you can limit those decisions in the power of attorney, keep in mind the medical decisions that a power of attorney can never make by law.

What is the Difference Between a Power of Attorney and a Guardianship?

A guardianship has a higher level of responsibility and decision-making than a power of attorney. A guardianship must be approved by a judge, and the guardian must provide periodic updates to the court. A power of attorney only needs the proper forms.

What is the Washington Uniform Power of Attorney Act?

The Washington Uniform Power of Attorney Act was a 2017 law that added safeguards to prevent abuses of powers of attorney. Many of the restrictions and requirements described above were added as part of this act. While you may see references to the Washington Uniform Power of Attorney Act, this is just a formal way of describing the laws that routinely govern powers of attorney.

When Should You Update Your Power of Attorney?

There are several situations where you may need to update your power of attorney.

  • You or your agent have moved, and the distance makes the arrangement impracticable.
  • The agent is no longer willing or able to assume the duties, or you no longer want them to.
  • Your life circumstances have changed and you need to agent to assume different responsibilities.

Do You Need an Attorney to Draft a Power of Attorney?

There is no legal requirement to have an attorney draft your power of attorney. However, a power of attorney confers important legal responsibilities, and you may want to have an attorney confirm that your power of attorney will do everything you want it to with no unintended consequences. Your attorney can also help you avoid technical mistakes that might result in a challenge to your power of attorney. To get help, talk to Lilac City Law today.

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5 Hacks for Setting Up a Living Will and Trust

Age is a slippery slope. The older you get, the more dependent you are on others. At some point, you cannot depend on yourself at all. 

Around 60-years-old, there is a 7% chance you will suffer from dementia. Two decades later, and it is more likely you will have dementia than you will not. By then, your decision-making is not trustworthy. 

Let your younger-self plan for future-you. Take the time now to decide what will happen to you and your property if the worst happens. 

These are 5 hacks to devising a will and trust.

Distinctions Between A Will and Trust

Legal jargon’s a little confusing. Layman’s terms can cause erroneous interchanging of the two meanings. A living trust and a living will are two, very separate things.

A lawyer can modify these documents when the person is able-bodied and right of mind. The ownership of these agreements transfers to the executor if either condition is not met.

A living trust documents the disbursement of your property after passing. A succeeding trustee will allocate your estate to your named beneficiaries. 

A living will deals with your health if you have been incapacitated. If you would like to be kept on support or not when you are unable to function for yourself. 

List Your Assets

Make a list of everything you own that has value: sentimental or capital. This a catalog of your assets. 

When devising your living trust, it is important to have an estimation of everything you own. Creating a trust will be easy when you can reduce this to a quantifiable number. Think of your house, your car, and everything included as your estate.

Most Americans will have around $300,000 worth of property to disperse. If your number is coming up short or high, try recalculating it. 

Your trustee will disperse your estate evenly (or how you deem fit) to your beneficiaries. 

Picking Your Beneficiaries

This part can be tough. It might be the toughest part for you. 

You have to choose who gets what when you are gone. This step is entirely dependent on your relationship with your loved ones. 

You might not have a family that you can give an estate to. Or you have a family undeserving of your property. It is yours to do what you wish; you can even donate it to charity. 

Pick who you think best deserves what you have earned in life. 

Find A Trustee You Can Trust

It is all in the name, “trustee.” Who do you trust to allocate your estate or make a life-or-death decision? 

Usually family. Most family members have nothing but loving intentions for you. 

If you do not have that, pick a trustee you can depend on. This person will decide your fate when you are gone physically or mentally. 

How to Write It

Writing a trust or a will depends on your wealth. If you are of moderate means, creating a will yourself is acceptable. But those with heavy wallets and lots of assets should hire an estate lawyer. 

Devising a will or a trust can be done through online software. Get the help of a loved one if you are uncomfortable with computers. 

A forewarning: doing either agreement incorrectly can devastate your beneficiaries. For those who err on the side of caution, it is recommended to get a lawyer regardless of your estate’s size. 

Take Care (of Yourself and Family) 

Everybody ages, everybody dies. What you do beforehand is important.

Know the distinction between a living will and a living trust. A will is health-related; a trust is for dispersing property. Make a list of your assets and decide a trustee to disperse them to beneficiaries.

You can create a will and trust yourself, but it is advised to do it with the help of a lawyer. 

Contact us if you have any other legal questions about estate planning or wills.

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How Did I Miss That? 5 Common Mistakes When Writing a Will

Despite the importance of estate planning, a majority of Americans seem to neglect it. In fact, 60% of American adults do not have a will.

Having more than enough to worry about already, many people do not want to add their mortality to their list of concerns. But writing a will can help you take good care of those you love, protect your assets, and prevent future disputes.

But just creating a will is not enough. You need to take the necessary measures to avoid common pitfalls that make your will legally sound.

Avoid these five common mistakes when writing a will.

Only Planning for the End of Life

A legal will should not just cover what will happen when you die. It should also articulate what should happen while you are still living.

To achieve this, you will need to create a living will as well as the last will and testament form.

The living will outlines your health care wishes while you are still alive. The last will and testament form gives your directives on estate inheritance after your death.

When drafting a living will remember to include advance directives.

Failing to Update Your Will

Making a will is not something you do once and forget about it. You need to update your will according to significant life changes.

Failure to do this can result in unintended inheritances and gifts, leaving your estate in a big mess.

Ignoring the Law

Each state has different legal requirements for creating a will. So before writing your will, familiarize yourself with your state’s stipulations for creating one.

Specifically, find out your state’s restrictions and requirements on matters such as; the number of witnesses required, selection criteria for witnesses, age, and notarization.

Failing to Name an Executor

An executor is a person responsible for ensuring that your will is followed to the letter. In your will, you should include the name of this individual/entity.

But before you select an executor, it is essential to get their permission. This is not something you would want to be a surprise.

Additionally, consider selecting a second executor. In case the first executor is unable to carry out their duties for whatsoever reason; the second executor will fill in.

Including Burial Wishes in the Will

Including your burial instructions in your will is not ideal, as wills are typically read several weeks after the funeral. As such, your burial instructions might be read too late, and this can leave your loved ones stressing about not observing your last wish.

To avoid this, write your burial instructions in a separate letter and tell your family where to find it.

Who to Trust When Writing a Will

Considering these potential pitfalls, writing a will can be a little bit tricky without a helping hand.

If you do not know how to write a will, Lilac City Law is here to help. We take our time to get to know you, your goals, and circumstances. This way, we can help you protect your assets better and secure the future of your loved ones.

Whether you want to create a will or maximize the effectiveness of the one you have already created, our experts will ensure that your last wishes are fully observed.

Contact us today to get started!

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5 Essential Estate Planning Forms You Need to Know About

Death. It is inevitable. No one likes considering their mortality but, the smartest among us prepare for it. Preparation helps the suffering of those you are leaving behind.

Filing the proper estate planning forms, consolidating assets into a trust, and making sure your affairs are in order is the greatest gift you can give your surviving loved ones.

By planning for the unexpected, you can avoid being taken advantage of and throw a safety net around your family and finances. Here, you will find the five most crucial estate planning forms you need.

Filling Out A Living Will

A living will gives your family, and any medical team attending you, instructions on how to take care of you if you are unable to make those decisions on your own.

Learn more about this and other advanced medical directives in our blog about creating an incapacitation plan here.

Establish A Durable Power of Attorney

One of the essential documents needed for estate planning is a durable power of attorney. This document assigns someone to act on your behalf if you should be incapacitated.

Unexpected things happen every day no matter your age. A durable power of attorney goes a long way towards making sure your wishes and finances are respected in a “worst case” scenario.

Choosing someone you trust to pay your bills, handle your finances and investments, and keep up the paperwork of your everyday life will help to make sure no one takes advantage of you or your estate.

Write A Legal Will

Writing a last will & testament is the first thing people consider when thinking about preparing for death. It is the legal form designating how you would like your estate to be divided up among any heirs you have.

A will assigns an executor who will manage your estate after your passing. If you have children, there will be a section on who should be appointed as their legal guardians if they are still minors when you pass.

Letter of Instruction

This letter goes along with the will as a non-legal, simple breakdown of the contents of the will. It is also the best place to put what your wishes are regarding the education, beliefs, and other significant decisions about your children.

A letter of instruction will allow you to say anything you don’t want to be made public knowledge since this is private and a will is public.

Form A Living Trust

A living trust avoids a legal process after death known as probate. Probate is the legal process your estate enters into after you die.

Any assets in a living trust are exempt from probate and will immediately be distributed, per your instructions, to any heirs. Setting up a living will can save your loved ones from stress and expenses related to probate.

Precise Preparation Before Death Avoids Confusion and Unnecessary Costs

Improving your familiarity with the forms and concepts necessary for a fully developed estate plan will help things go more smoothly for you and your family as you age and pass on. In fact, in the absolute worst case scenario, having these items prepared and maintained by a great estate lawyer, will be a godsend to those you leave behind.

If you are ready to take the next steps in estate planning we are here to help. You can read more about our family estate services here.

Contact us today by using the form below!

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Why You Need to Consider Options for Temporary Guardianship for Your Children

Why You Need to Consider Options for Temporary Guardianship for Your Children

As a parent, the last thing you want to think is not being around for your children.  Not being there to make decisions for them, and not being there to take care of them.

Unfortunately, accidents do happen and if the worst case were to happen to your family, there is little doubt that you would want to make sure someone you trust is around and able to care for your children!  You need to start considering a temporary guardianship for your children.

Three Reasons You Need to Consider Temporary Guardianship

Incapacitation: If you become incapacitated and unable to care for your children, you want to have someone you trust to make decisions for them.

Substitution: If you need to be out of town and away for your children for any reason, you want to have someone there to care for your children.

Emergency:  If there is an emergency that causes you unable to care for your children and there was no time to appoint a permanent guardian, then a temporary guardian will be appointed.   This is also known as an emergency guardian.  If you have not specifically set up a temporary guardian for your children, they could end up temporarily in the care of strangers, or family members that you would not want them with. 

Role of a Temporary Guardian

In a temporary guardianship, the person named:

  • Has legal custody of the child or children
  • Has the right to make any medical decisions for the child or children
  • Has the right to make any educational decisions for the child or children
  • Has the right to make any financial decisions for the child or children
  • Is legally responsible for the child or children

Length of Time a Temporary Guardianship Lasts

A temporary guardianship typically lasts up to 60 days.  State statutes will set the time period if it is a court-ordered guardianship.  The length can vary depending on each case.

If the temporary guardianship is set up in a document such as a living will or through a power of attorney, then it will last for the amount of time outlined in the document.  The amount of time should be reasonable and realistic in case of any changes.

A temporary guardianship only lasts until its purpose is fulfilled.  For example, if you appoint a temporary guardian for your children while you are on a business trip, then when you return, the temporary guardianship will end.

How to Arrange a Temporary Guardianship

There are a few ways to arrange a temporary guardianship for your children.  Each one depends on the reason you need to set one up.

  • Living Will or Power of Attorney: If you are setting up a temporary guardianship to become effective if you become incapacitated or deceased, you want to name the guardian in your living will or on your power of attorney form. This person will be the guardian of your children until you are no longer incapacitated or until a permanent guardian is named.  You may also put a period for which you want a temporary guardianship in place.
  • While you are out of town: If you need to set up temporary guardianship because you will be out of the state or country, you can name a guardian to care for your children in your absence. This can be done simply by writing a guardianship letter or filling out a guardianship form.  In the letter you want to be sure to include the name of the guardian, the reason they are the guardian, the dates the temporary guardianship is in effect, and what decisions the guardian is allowed to make for your children.

Rember to chose someone you trust.  This person will be making important decisions for your children when you cannot.  Choosing a guardian is an important decision and you need to discuss the responsibilities with whomever you choose.


Talk to us Today about a Temporary Guardianship

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What Legal Documents Do I Need for my Estate Plan?

What Legal Documents Do I Need for my Estate Plan?

When setting up an estate plan, you may find yourself needing to find a lot of different documents. If you are using an estate planning attorney, you might find yourself asking, “What legal documents do I need?”  And more to the point, “what do I need to prepare these documents?”

To help you, we have compiled a list of documents you are going to need for each part of the estate planning process. 

Not everyone will need each part so don’t worry if you see something that you are not doing.  Feel free to contact us if you have any questions. 

Living Will

A living will is also known as an advance care directive.  A living will is only valid while you are alive.  It states your wishes for end of life medical care in case you are unable to communicate your decisions.  You can set up the living will to take effect either as soon as it is signed or it can be set up to only begin as soon as you are unable to communicate your wishes.  The requirements for a living will vary from state to state, so your best option is to hire an estate planning attorney to help you.  Legal documents you will need for your living will are:

  • Beneficiary informationLegal names, Contact information, Social Security, and Birth Certificate/adoption papers (for minor children).
  • Asset InformationCopy of the deed for your house or other real estate, titles for all vehicles, bank statements, retirement paperwork, paperwork related to investments, and any paperwork from an appraiser if you have any valuable personal property you want to be left to a specific beneficiary.
  • Debt Informationdocuments relating to your mortgage, car loans, student loans, and consumer debt.
  • Executor and Guardian InformationNames and contact information for anyone you name an executor or guardian.

Durable Power of Attorney for Finances

A Durable Power of Attorney for Finances allows you to name a trusted person to be able to make decisions about your finances should you become incapacitated.  If you do not have a Durable Power of Attorney for finances, then your loved ones will have to go to court and ask for the ability to make financial decisions.  Legal documents you will need for your living will are:

  • Durable Power of Attorney FormMust be filled out, signed, and notarized (for Washington state, requirements vary from state to state).
  • Attorney-in-fact contact informationContact information and legal name(s) for anyone you name to make decisions for you.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allows you to name someone to make health care decisions for you should you become incapacitated. It also allows you to voice what you want if you become incapacitated. Legal documents you will need for your living will are:

  • Durable Power of Attorney FormMust be filled out, signed, and notarized (for Washington state, requirements vary from state to state).
  • Attorney-in-fact contact informationContact information and legal name(s) for anyone you name to make decisions for you.

Last Will and Testament

You last will and testament is a legal document that allows you to say how your estate will be distributed after you die.  It will also allow you to name a guardian for your minor children if you have any and also what will happen to your pets. Legal documents you will need for your living will are:

  • Family DocumentsPrenuptial agreements, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, existing will and trust documents if you have them, adoption certificates (if applicable), and findings of your disability or of family members.
  • Business documents Partnership agreements, trade name registrations, and documents files to establish a corporation.
  • Real Estate DocumentsDeeds, real estate trust documents, and deeds of life estates or leases.
  • Account StatementsBank, retirement, and investment accounts.

Living Trust

There are two types of living trusts; Revocable (can be changed) and Irrevocable (cannot be changed).  Unlike a will, a living trust will ensure that property left through the trust will not have to go into probate.  When it goes through probate, it can take months to be settled and sometimes cost as much as 5% of the assets to pay for lawyers.  Not everyone has to be concerned about probate, and some people may not need a trust at all.  You can speak with an estate planning attorney to find out if you need a living trust.  Legal documents you will need for your living will are:

  • Beneficiary informationLegal names, Contact information, Social Security, and Birth Certificate/adoption papers (for minor children).
  • Asset InformationCopy of the deed for your house or other real estate, titles for all vehicles, bank statements, retirement paperwork, paperwork related to investments, and any paperwork from an appraiser if you have any valuable personal property you want to be left to a specific beneficiary. You only need documents for the property you will be putting into the living trust.
Finish Your Plan!  Contact an Estate Planning Attorney Today…

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Break Down Estate Planning By Using These Worksheets

Break Down Estate Planning By Using These Worksheets

Estate planning is not something you are probably thinking about… especially if you are decades out from retirement. 

It is one of those things we all know we should do but don’t think about until we are much older. 

Sometimes, sadly, we do not think about it until it is too late.

However, regardless of where you are in life, you should have an estate plan set up.

So where do you start?  Get yourself educated, informed, and start getting to know your assets and options as soon as possible.  Here are some tools to help you understand and get started with estate planning.

Checklist & Asset Inventory

Motley Fool Green Light has an excellent checklist as well as worksheets to help you gather all of your information into one place.  You will need to print it out in order to fill it out.  You can find that “Estate plan Papers to Gather” checklist here.

You can also find an asset inventory from Charles Schwab that helps you list out all of your assets, personal information, and beneficiaries.  This form you can either print out and fill out as needed.  The Charles Schwab asset inventory can be downloaded here. (Download link not working anymore, contact us for a helpful form!)

Living Will

A living will is also known as an advance care directive.  A living will is only valid while you are alive.  It states your wishes for end of life medical care in case you are unable to communicate your decisions.  You can set up the living will to take effect either as soon as it is signed or it can be set up to only begin as soon as you are unable to communicate your wishes.  The requirements for a living will vary from state to state so your best option is to hire an estate planning attorney to help you.  Be wary about do it yourself wills, here is why.

You can find informative pamphlets and a living will worksheet and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care worksheet from Providence Washington, here.

Durable Power of Attorney (Finances and Health)

A Durable Power of Attorney for Finances allows you to name a trusted person to be able to make decisions about your finances should you become incapacitated.  If you do not have a Durable Power of Attorney for finances, then your loved ones will have to go to court and ask for the ability to make financial decisions on your behalf.  You can find a durable power of attorney for finances worksheet here.

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allows you to name someone to make health care decisions for you should you become incapacitated. It also allows you to voice what you want if you become incapacitated.

Last Will and Testament

You last will and testament is a legal document that allows you to say how your estate will be distributed after you die.  It will also allow you to name a guardian for your minor children if you have any and also what will happen to your pets.

Read this article about DIY last wills and testaments.

Living Trust

There are two types of living trusts; Revocable (can be changed) and Irrevocable (cannot be changed).  Unlike a will, a living trust will ensure that property left through the trust will not have to go into probate.

Here is an article about the differences between Wills and Living Trusts.

When it goes through probate, it can take months to be settled and sometimes cost as much as 5% of the assets to pay for lawyers.  Not everyone has to be concerned about probate, and some people may not need a trust at all.  You can speak with an estate planning attorney to find out if you need a living trust. Sources:

Make Sense of All These Worksheets
Contact An Estate Planning Attorney Today!

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