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.
What is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?
A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is a document that lets you choose who you want to help you with decisions about your health care in case you are not able to make those decisions yourself. The person you name is called your Agent.
I do not have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. What happens if I don't create one?
Let's say you haven't designated a Health Care Agent and decide that you don't want to designate one. In that case, Washington State law (RCW 7.70.065) authorizes the order of priority for who can make those decisions. The order of priority may not be in accordance with your wishes.
Who should I appoint to be my Agent?
A Health Care Agent can be a friend or relative you trust to make serious decisions. This individual needs to be over 18 years of age. To select an appropriate Health Care Agent, think about how available this person is and how well suited this person is to this role.
What kinds of decisions can my Agent make?
Your Health Care Agent makes decisions regarding your health care.
Can I change my mind about having a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?
You can revoke your Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care document at any time, but this is subject to specific notice requirements.
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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