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Stricter Power Of Attorney Rules Take Effect In Washington

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When someone is elderly and incapacitated, it often falls to a loved one to make health care or financial decisions for them. The next of kin, or other designated party, is able to do this because they’ve been given what’s called “power of attorney.”  But, sometimes a vulnerable adult can be taken advantage of. A new state law is meant to curb such abuse. The Uniform Power of Attorney Act became law in Washington on January 1.  State Senator Jamie Pedersen, who was a sponsor of the legislation says, the old law was badly in need of an update.

“The problem with Washington’s fairly basic power of attorney statute was that there were almost no formalities that were required for executing a power of attorney, no witnesses and no notary,” Pedersen said. 

As a result, Pedersen says, someone could commit fraud by using the power of attorney, for example, preying on someone vulnerable and then using the power to drain their bank account.

The new law requires that all powers of attorney, for either health care of financial purposes, be witnessed by two people or notarized.

The law also lays out in detail what specific powers someone has when they are granted the right to make decisions for someone unable to manage their own affairs.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.