Last month, I attended a presentation at the Washington State Bar Association’s Real Property, Probate and Trust Midyear Conference by University of Washington law school professor Karen Boxx summarizing the changes to Washington law governing durable powers of attorney recently passed by our state’s legislature which will become effective in January 2017.
At its most basic, a General Durable Power of Attorney is a document that gives another person (the “Attorney-in-Fact”) authority to act on behalf of the person signing the document (the “Principal”). At last month’s presentation, I learned a bit more about the history of durable powers of attorney. For example, historically, durable powers of attorney became ineffective upon a principal’s incapacity. In the 1970s, Washington’s legislature passed a law creating General Durable Powers of Attorney, allowing the power of attorney to remain effective following the principal’s incapacity (that’s the durable part).
Lawmakers enacted the recent changes to Washington’s Power of Attorney Act to make our state’s laws governing powers of attorney consistent with those of other states. Indeed, the new act is to be known as the “uniform power of attorney act.” Existing powers of attorney documents will remain effective under the new law. However, the new law includes some important changes. Here are just a few:
- Additional signing formalities are required to execute a power of attorney: General Durable Powers of attorney are now required to be signed in the presence of a notary or two competent witnesses.
- A power of attorney now automatically terminates upon filing for dissolution from a spouse or a registered domestic partner, rather than defaulting to termination upon entry of an order of dissolution, as under the prior power of attorney act.
- An attorney-in-fact’s fiduciary duties are now stated explicitly in the statute.
- The scope of financial and real property matters over which an attorney-in-fact may be granted general authority are expanded.
- Changes to powers that require specific authorization, such as gifting and estate planning authority.
Wondering whether your General Durable Power of Attorney needs updating? We’re happy to discuss!
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This post is for informational purposes and does not contain or convey legal advice. The information herein should not be used or relied upon in regard to any particular facts or circumstances without first consulting with an attorney.