Durable Powers of Attorney, Health Care Directives and Guardianships
These are all statutory creations, and amended by case law and practice. Advance planning is crucial when diminished capacity may be anticipated.
Powers of Attorney (POA) grant authority to another, called an Attorney-in-Fact, to handle matters for the Principal, (the person signing the POA). These may be General, in the case of authority granted at the time of execution by Principal. They may be Limited, in the case of a present grant of authority, but limited in scope. They may be Durable, in the case of authority deferred until the presentation of a written opinion of the regularly attending Physician.
Thus, Durable POAs spring into action at a time later than executed, and are useful to prevent the need for a Guardianship. However, absolute trust is required by the Principal in the Attorney-in-Fact (AIF), since by definition Principal is then mentally or physically unable to handle their own legal and/or business matters. Literally, the AIF under a Durable POA could sell everything and move. Used right, as in a family without borders, they provide continuity of care and authority to act in the Principal’s right and stead as fully as if they were personally present.
Health Care Directives, a/k/a Living Wills are a competent person’s written instructions to their Physician, that in the extreme event where the application of life sustaining technology only acts to prolong the Principal’s otherwise natural death. The Statute is entitled the Natural Death Act, RCW 70.122. This is the most sensitive of areas, involving the core of how one chooses to live or die. There is also an even more advanced Directive, called the POLST, and you’ll need to consult with your Physician to complete that document.
Guardianships are Superior Court proceedings necessary when the person whose abilities are lacking, in the Court’s considered and informed opinion, require someone to act legally on their behalf. Annual, or in some cases triennial reviews are mandatory. At such times, conveyances are limited or non-existent. But care is continued, which at that point, is vital.