A Power of Attorney is a document that, when executed correctly, allows a person (known as the principal) to select another individual (known as the agent or attorney in fact) to act or make decisions on their behalf.

A POA is often utilized when the principal is not available to sign documents. We see this frequently in the case of military members who have been deployed, often their spouse or other family member signs legal documents as their attorney in fact. Another instance is when the principal is not able to sign or make decisions due to health conditions.

There are many types of power of attorney, such as for financial, health care, guardianship, tax filing purposes, etc. Additionally, a ‘durable power of attorney’ remains in effect even if the principal becomes incapacitated due to health reasons. To determine which one is best fitted to your circumstances you should obtain legal advice.

When you have your documents prepared you will most likely need to appear before a notary public and the principal will acknowledge their intent to sign the POA. In lieu of notarization, Washington State does allow the principal to sign in the presence of 2 competent subscribing witnesses. There are restrictions as to who may be a witness, details can be found here.

When the time comes for the agent to sign documents on behalf of the principal, there will typically be a required format such as, “John Doe by Jane Doe, Attorney-in-Fact”.  Be sure to ask what the preferred format is prior to signing.

Finally, a POA can be revoked by the principal at any time and should be done in writing. If the POA has been submitted to a financial institution, care facility, etc., it would be wise to notify them of the change.

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