Posted on: Oct 15, 2018
Establishing Powers of Attorney is very important, but isn’t something that you should try to tackle on your own. Let’s talk a little about what a Durable Power of Attorney is and why it’s important.
What is a Durable Power of Attorney?
A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) is a legal document that authorizes an individual to act on another’s behalf. The Principal (person executing the DPOA), typically grants authority to a trusted friend or loved one to make important decisions.
That person is called the “Attorney-in-Fact” (“AIF”) or “Agent”. Oftentimes they are also called the “POA”, which can be confusing. They are not technically the Power of Attorney, since that is the document – but they have power to act under it.
There are two different types of DPOAs: medical and financial. Each gives the Agent specific authority and responsibilities. Medical DPOAs address healthcare decision-making, while financial DPOAs grant authority to manage financial interests. It is not uncommon for a Principal to name one trusted person as Agent over both.
How are DPOA Documents Written?
You can find sites online that allow you to generate DPOA documents from a template. Every state has different rules regarding how these documents must be written though. Washington has adopted the Uniform Power of Attorney Act which went into effect on January 1st, 2017. It states an individual executing a Durable Power of Attorney in Washington State is required to sign before two witnesses or a notary public. Online sites don’t give you all the necessary information or tools to make sure that your DPOA is properly executed, so it’s best to ask a lawyer for guidance.
A Principal must also specify what powers an Agent must have in the DPOA document. That way, that individual will have the necessary authority to act on the Principal’s behalf. In other words, there are specific powers that must be spelled out in the document for the person to act as Agent.
This is why writing your own DPOA or using one that is generated from an online template is dangerous. Not only does it run the risk of not being compliant with individual state laws, but it could also give you the false sense that an individual is allowed to act on your behalf, when in fact they can’t.
Can a Durable Power of Attorney be Revoked?
You are the only person who can revoke a DPOA. You can do so as long as you are mentally competent. In certain cases, the court can revoke a DPOA. Once the court revokes the DPOA, a court-ordered Guardianship will ensue. See our previous article about what a Guardianship is and why you want to avoid them.
Here are some instances when the court will revoke a DPOA:
- When (at the time of the signing) the Principal was mentally incompetent to make that decision
- Formalities required by the state in which the Principal resides were not followed
- The individual appointed as Agent abuses their authority
- More than one person was appointed as Agent – joint Agents – and they cannot agree
In other words, the government may declare a DPOA agreement invalid if the document was not filled out correctly or if there were other problems.
DON’T TRUST YOUR FUTURE TO AN ONLINE FORM!