Florida Estate Planning and Probate Law Blog focused on recent case law and planning ideas.

NEW STATE OF WASHINGTON POWER OF ATTORNEY STATUTE

The new State of Washington Power of Attorney statute went into effect on January 1, 2017 (“Act”). The Act provides several changes and additions to the previous law, which aim to address previous ambiguity in the law and to provide safeguards to prevent possible abuse of authority by an agent under the power of attorney. Some of the key provisions of the Act are: Agent/Attorney in Fact: If the principal names co-agents to act on his or her behalf, the Act now clarifies that co-agents must exercise their authority jointly, unless the document specifies that each co-agent may act independently. When Effective: Under the Act, a power of attorney must now expressly state that the document is not affected by the disability of the principal, or that it becomes effective upon the disability of the principal in order for the power of attorney to be “durable” and not affected by the principal’s subsequent disability. The powers granted to the agent may be effective immediately upon signing or may spring into effect only when the principal becomes incapacitated. Powers Granted to Agent: The Act allows the principal to grant authority to the agent over broad subject matters, including but not limited to, the authority to manage the principal’s real and personal property, stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments; to make gifts; to manage the principal’s estate, trusts, and other beneficial interests; and to manage and operate a business. By drafting the power of attorney to refer to certain specific categories of powers the agent may be granted, the power of attorney can incorporate the more detailed descriptions of these powers set forth in the Act. This could eliminate ambiguity in the document itself regarding the scope of the agent’s particular powers and may allow the power of attorney document itself to be simplified. Under the Act, the authority to make gifts is limited to the amount of the federal gift tax annual exclusion ($14,000 per year to each recipient) unless otherwise stated in the document. Formalities: The principal’s signature must either be: (i) acknowledged by a notary; or (ii) attested by two or more witnesses, who are competent, and are not home care providers for the principal or related to either the principal or agent by blood or marriage.