By Beau Ruff
Estate planning attorneys often remind their clients that laws change frequently and estate plans should be updated periodically to take into account not just changed family circumstances, but also new laws. And, sometimes a new law has such broad implication for estate planning that it is deserves special attention. Such is the case with Washington’s new Power of Attorney Act. The power of attorney is a powerful and ubiquitous piece to your estate plan. A completely new Power of Attorney Act took effect Jan. 1.
As a reminder, a power of attorney, or POA, is a document that allows a person, or principal, to give an agent power to transact the principal’s affairs as if the agent were the principal. Arguably, the POA is the most important piece of your estate plan as it directly affects what happens to you while you are still alive.
The POA Act was introduced in Washington state in the 1970s and had little updating until the robust revisions took effect at the first of the year.
It is important to note that although the new act applies to all POAs (including those executed before Jan. 1, 2017), POAs executed before the first of the year are exempt from both: (1) the new formal execution requirements (discussed below); and (2) the interpretation of the authority granted (discussed below). It is for those reasons that most POAs will not need to be updated. But, some practitioners believe the new POA Act provides a more streamlined process for acceptance of a POA drafted under the new law and for that reason many people may want to consider updating the POA, especially if it has been a while since the plan has been dusted off.
The new POA Act deviates from the previous act in several important areas.
In this column, I explain those area and discuss how they might affect you. Please understand this is a summary review. Every case is unique and you should consult your attorney for specific information.
Overall, the new act streamlines the drafting, use and acceptance of the power of attorney. But, it also presents a substantial change to the laws that can affect your estate plan. Talk to your estate planning professional to see how it might affect you.
[panel title="About Beau Ruff" style="info"]
Attorney Beau Ruff works for Cornerstone Wealth Strategies, a full-service independent investment management and financial planning firm in Kennewick, where he focuses on assisting clients with comprehensive planning.
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