What is a POLST form?
POLST is short for Portable Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. A POLST is a green form that provides a summary of your treatment preferences in an emergency. It covers wishes regarding resuscitation and different levels of medical interventions.
Is completing a POLST form voluntary?
Yes. Completing a POLST form is voluntary.
How does a POLST form interact with my estate planning documents?
A POLST form does not replace a will, durable power of attorney for health care, or advance directive document. Instead, it helps health care providers honor your wishes in an emergency.
Can I revoke a POLST form?
Yes, a POLST form may be revoked. There are different methods of revoking the form.
Are there signature requirements?
In Washington, a medical provider (physician, ARNP, or PA-C) needs to sign the POLST form. You (or someone who can sign the form on your behalf) need to sign the form as well.
Where should I keep a POLST form?
A POLST form should be kept in a visible location. This form is meant to be accessible to emergency personnel. Some people put the form on their refrigerator or next to the front door.
Your agent is the person you name in your power of attorney document. This person will have the power to manage financial or healthcare matters on your behalf. Sometimes a power of attorney document will refer to an attorney-in-fact instead of an agent. These are two different terms for the same position.
A personal representative is the person you name in your will to manage your estate after you die. The personal representative performs several tasks on behalf of your estate, including talking with your heirs, determining the value of your estate, and distributing your estate's assets. A personal representative might also be referred to as an executor. The terms personal representative and executor are interchangeable.
The Dividing Line
The difference between an agent and a personal representative is when an agent and a personal representative can act. Agents have the power to manage financial or healthcare matters when you are alive but are incapacitated or unable to make decisions about your finances or healthcare. Personal representatives act only after your death. Stated differently, death is the dividing line delineating when agents and personal representatives act. Whatever authority and power your agent has ends with your death. Meanwhile, your personal representative has the power to act only after your death.
If a person passes away without making a will, this person (the decedent) is said to have died intestate. The property will be distributed according to the state's intestacy laws.
In Washington state, RCW 11.04.015 deals with the distribution of real and personal property when a person dies intestate. According to the statute, the decedent's surviving spouse or state registered domestic partner receives the community property. The statute outlines how much of the decedent's separate property the surviving spouse or state registered domestic partner receives. This is based on whether the decedent is survived by issue (children or grandchildren), parent, or parents.
If no surviving spouse or state registered domestic partner exists, or for shares from the estate that are not distributable to the surviving spouse or state registered domestic partner, the shares are distributed to the decedent's issue. If there is no issue, then to the decedent's parent or parents. If the decedent has no surviving parent or parents, then to the issue of parents. If there is no issue of parents, then to the decedent's grandparent or grandparents. If the decedent has no living grandparent or grandparents, then to the issue of the grandparent or grandparents.
As the above shows, if a person dies without making a will, the property, whether personal or real, will not automatically escheat to the state.
Ruth A. Harper
I'm a Pacific Northwest attorney, and my focus is on estate planning and elder law. My interest in these fields grew out of my experience with aging relatives and family members with special needs.
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