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How To Make a Power of Attorney in Washington FAQ

Written by: Catherine Hodder, Esq. , Senior Legal Writer
Reviewed by: Madison Hess, J.D. , Legal Writer
Last updated May 23, 2024

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If you need help with managing your own legal and financial affairs, a power of attorney can help. Learn about the benefits of power of attorney documents and how to create a valid power of attorney in the state of Washington.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that allows you, as the “principal,” to authorize someone you trust as your “agent” or “attorney in fact,” to act on your behalf. You can use a power of attorney for convenience, for example, if you travel frequently and need someone to step in for you. Or you can use a power of attorney if you have a severe illness or incapacity and can’t make decisions on your own. You use different types of power of attorney documents for different purposes.

financial power of attorney allows an agent to handle legal and financial matters. The scope of your agent’s authority can be general or limited, and your document must comply with Washington’s Uniform Power of Attorney Act, §11.125.010 to §11.125.903. A power of attorney for healthcare allows an agent to manage your medical decisions and end-of-life care.

A power of attorney is a handy document to have if you are suddenly incapacitated or can’t make your own decisions. Your designated agent can step in and act for you. Without an agent, your family will have to petition a court for a conservatorship. A court then appoints someone as your conservator to handle your decision-making. With a power of attorney, your family saves time and money by avoiding a conservatorship action.

Who Can Be My Agent?

In Washington, your agent can be any competent adult you trust. Your agent can be a family member, friend, or professional. When choosing your agent, you also want someone responsible and organized. Your agent has significant control power over your money and assets. They also have a fiduciary duty to avoid conflicts of interest and act in good faith in your best interest.

Using co-agents in a power of attorney is problematic. If your agents have to act jointly, they may disagree, and if they can act independently, they may contract each other’s decisions, causing chaos. It is better to name someone as your primary agent and another as your backup or successor agent if your primary agent is unable to serve.

What Can My Agent Do in Washington?

ou decide what you want your agent to be able to do on your behalf. Common tasks in a financial POA may include maintaining your family’s support, paying bills, handling real estate transactions, and making financial decisions. Washington statutes §11.125.240 through §11.125.420 covers what authority you can grant your agent, for example:

  • Real property (your real estate)
  • Tangible personal property (your possessions)
  • Stocks, bonds, and financial instruments
  • Banks and financial institutions 
  • Operation of business or entity
  • Insurance and annuities 
  • Estates, trusts, and other beneficial interests 
  • Claims and litigation 
  • Personal and family maintenance 
  • Government programs and civil or military service benefits   
  • Retirement and deferred compensation
  • Taxes 
  • Gifts 

However, under §11.125.240, there are other specific powers that you must expressly grant to your agent, such as the following:

  • Create, amend, revoke, or terminate a living trust
  • Make a gift
  • Create or change rights of survivorship
  • Create or change a beneficiary designation
  • Delegate some but not all authority granted under the power of attorney
  • Waive your right to be a beneficiary of a joint and survivor annuity, including a survivor benefit under a retirement plan
  • Exercise fiduciary powers that the principal has authority to delegate
  • Exercise any power of appointment in favor of someone other than you
  • Create, amend, or revoke a community property agreement
  • Cause a trustee to make distributions of property held in trust
  • Make provisions for nonprobate transfers not in a will
  • Make healthcare decisions for you

Some of these specific powers could reduce your estate. In some situations, you may want your agent to reduce your estate to minimize estate taxes or qualify you for government benefits like Medicaid. Decide what powers you want to give your agent and talk to them about how to handle your money and property.

What Is a Durable Power of Attorney in Washington?

durable power of attorney remains in effect even if the principal becomes incapacitated. Under §11-125.040, a power of attorney in Washington terminates upon the principal’s incapacity unless it contains the words: “This power of attorney shall not be affected by disability of the principal” or “This power of attorney shall become effective upon the disability of the principal,” or similar words showing the intent to make it a durable POA.

When Is the Power of Attorney Effective?

Under §11.125, a power of attorney in Washington is effective when executed under §11.125.090. However, a principal may make the power of attorney effective at a future date or contingent event, such as the principal’s incapacity, called a “springing” POA.

When Does the Power of Attorney End?

In Washington, a power of attorney ends upon certain events as detailed in §11.125.100. The power of attorney terminates when:

  • The principal dies;
  • The principal becomes incapacitated, if the power of attorney is nondurable;
  • The principal revokes the power of attorney;
  • The power of attorney provides that it terminates;
  • The purpose of the power of attorney is accomplished; or
  • The principal revokes the agent’s authority or the agent dies, becomes incapacitated, or resigns, and the power of attorney does not provide for another agent to act under the power of attorney.

Additionally, an agent’s authority terminates when:

  • The principal revokes the authority;
  • The agent dies, becomes incapacitated, or resigns;
  • The agent is the principal’s spouse or domestic partner and an action is filed for divorce, annulment, or legal separation or dissolution of the domestic partnership unless the power of attorney states otherwise; or
  • The power of attorney terminates.

Does Washington Have a Statutory Power of Attorney?

No. Washington does not provide a statutory power of attorney form. You can either make your own power of attorney or hire an estate planning attorney.

Can I Make My Own Power of Attorney in Washington?

Yes. You can make your power of attorney in Washington if you are an adult and mentally competent. When making a power of attorney, you should know who you want as your agent and what authority you wish to grant. Many people looking for self-help solutions use state-specific online estate planning forms. However, if you have other questions about POAs, you should talk to an attorney for legal advice.

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How Do I Make My Power of Attorney Valid in Washington?

Under §11.125.050, a valid Washington power of attorney requires it to be in writing and signed by you in front of a notary public or two competent witnesses that are not related to you or your health care providers.

Do I Have to Notarize My Power of Attorney in Washington?

Yes. A notary public or other individual authorized to take acknowledgments must attest your signature on the power of attorney. In lieu of notarization, you can have two or more competent witnesses attest your signature; however, there are limitations in Washington on who can be a witness.

What Should I Do After Signing My Power of Attorney?

After signing your power of attorney, keep the original and inform your agent and any relevant third parties, such as your bank or financial institution. Your agent may be asked to sign an agent certification form in which they certify under oath that your power of attorney is effective and they are authorized to act on your behalf. Have a clear conversation with your agent about their responsibilities and your expectations.

Does a Power of Attorney Agent Get Paid in Washington?

An agent may receive reimbursement for reasonable expenses incurred by acting under your power of attorney. They may also receive reasonable compensation for serving as your agent unless you state otherwise in the power of attorney document.

Is My Washington Power of Attorney Valid in Another State?

Yes. Generally, a power of attorney created and executed according to Washington state law will be honored in other states.

Can I Revoke My Washington Power of Attorney?

Yes. As long as you are competent, you can revoke your Washington power of attorney at any time. To revoke your POA, you must provide written notice to your agent and any third parties who relied on the POA. It is also a good idea to destroy the original POA.

What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have in Washington?

In addition to your financial power of attorney, you should consider a health care directive and a last will and testament for a comprehensive estate plan.

A health care directive, or an advance directive, combines a healthcare power of attorney and a living will declaration. You designate an agent who can speak to your medical team, access your medical records, and make healthcare decisions when you can’t. You can also express your wishes for life-sustaining treatments or medical procedures you want when you have an end-stage illness or terminal condition.

last will and testament is your instructions for property distribution and who should care for your minor children and pets. If you don’t have a will, a probate court decides this for you. When you make a will, you have control over your property and assets and what happens to your loved ones.

Fortunately, with online estate planning templates, it is easy to create a valid power of attorney and other Washington estate planning documents.

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