Washington State enacted a modified version of the Uniform Power of Attorney Act that will become effective January 1, 2017. The Uniform Law Commission recommended that states adopt the legislation to “preserve the durable power of attorney as a low-cost, flexible, and private form of surrogate decision making while deterring use of the power of attorney as a tool of financial abuse of incapacitated individuals.” The Act is intended to provide more protection to the principal, the agent, and third parties who deal with the agent.
The following are some of the important changes between the current law and the new law:
- Divorce. Current statutes do not terminate a power of attorney for spouses upon filing a dissolution petition; the new law will terminate the power of attorney upon filing a dissolution petition.
- HIPPA. Current law is silent regarding authorized access to records under HIPPA; the new law explicitly states that the attorney-in-fact is authorized to access records under HIPPA
- Signing. Current law is silent as to whether the signature on a power of attorney must be notarized; the new law requires either a notarized signature or two witnesses to the signing, although a notary is still required for recording purposes.
- Duties. Current statutes are silent regarding the duties of the agent, although the courts have imposed a broad fiduciary duty on agents; the new law provides a list of specific duties for the agent.
- Gifts. Current law does not have specific provisions for which gifting is permitted; the new law includes guidance for an agent making gifts, unless the power of attorney provides otherwise.
- Resignation. Current law is silent on resignation of the agent; the new law gives specific ways for an agent to resign.
- Co-Agents. Current law is silent regarding the actions of co-agents; the new law provides that co-agents must act jointly unless specifically provided otherwise in the document.
Rather than trying to determine if your current power of attorney is valid, call us and we will ensure that your documents are consistent with the new law.