What happens if an illness, accident or the effects of aging leave you unable to handle your own financial affairs or unable to tell your doctors what kind of treatments you do and don’t want? Though it may seem like a scenario that is far off in the future, it’s a good idea to make a plan for how your affairs will be handled if you can no longer advocate for yourself.
Creating a durable power of attorney, or DPOA, is a highly effective way to designate how you want financial and health care decisions to be made and who should make them for you. The word “durable” simply means that the DPOA remains effective after you become incapacitated, unlike a regular power of attorney which terminates in that event.
There are two types of durable powers of attorney in Washington, and we recommend that you have both:
- Financial DPOA — This allows you to designate someone to make decisions related to your financial holdings.
- Health care DPOA — You select a person to make health care decisions for you in the event you cannot make them for yourself.
One major reason to create a DPOA is to make it unnecessary for your family to go to court to obtain guardianship. This process can cause a great deal of stress and tension between family members who disagree over who should have the right to make decisions for you. In a guardianship proceeding, the judge ultimately decides who should serve as guardian, and it may be someone you would not have chosen yourself.
This ability to choose who acts for you (your agent) is a key advantage of a DPOA. You should choose someone you trust to act in your best interests. The person does not have to be a financial or medical expert, just someone who knows you and whose sense of judgment you respect. You can designate the same person as agent on both your financial and health care DPOA, though you may want to talk to your attorney about the pros and cons of doing so before signing the documents.
Although there are online forms for creating DPOAs, it is a good idea to speak with an estate planning lawyer about your specific needs. This is because the wording of the DPOA needs to be tailored to fit your exact goals. An attorney’s input helps ensure your DPOA truly reflects your wishes.
At Bottimore & Associates, P.L.L.C., in Tacoma, our attorneys have extensive experience helping clients create durable powers of attorney under Washington law. We’re here to help you as well. Reach us by calling 253-780-7622 or by contacting us online to schedule a confidential consultation.