You can complete a power of attorney form to give someone else legal authority over your finances. This authority can be limited or broad. You can note on the form if you are giving it now or in the future. An attorney, stationary store or private online company can supply this form. Be careful: A power of attorney can easily be abused if you do not choose the right person or clearly state your wishes.
You can have a representative payee appointed who can manage your federal benefits from Social Security, Railroad Retirement or the Veterans Administration now or in the future. A representative payee who is put in place now can serve in case you lose the ability to meet your own physical or mental health needs. You or someone close to you must apply directly to the federal agency paying the benefits to officially appoint a representative payee. Note that if you have a power of attorney, that person will not be able to manage these benefits unless the federal agency also approves him or her as the representative payee.
A trust gives someone else the rights to your property. This document is similar to a will, but it can be used while you are alive. A trust can sometimes be set up instead of a power of attorney. A trust can also help avoid a court appointing a conservator if you later are not able to manage your own finances. Trusts have many other purposes and come in many forms. Consult an attorney if possible when considering a trust.
The term 'advance directive' refers to your oral and written instructions about your future medical care in the event you are unable to express your medical wishes.
Patients at the end of life or who have a terminal condition but understand their condition can discuss their wishes for end-of-life care with a physician. This can result in a standing medical order called a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST). These orders direct other medical professionals to either provide or deny life-sustaining treatments based on patients’ wishes. The form can be obtained from your physician.
A person may be or become incapacitated and not have the ability to make health care decisions. This can be the result of an accident, illness, or disability. If a person is incapacitated, a family member (or a friend, care facility, or case manager) may petition the court to appoint a legal guardian for him or her.
Guardians are charged to act on the person’s behalf and make decisions that reflect the values and needs of the person.
A guardian may also be appointed to oversee other things besides health care decisions including managing the person’s property, income, or finances.
Washington’s Community Living Connections staff are available to help you explore your options to meet your current needs or create a plan for the future.
Frequently Asked Questions about Guardianships in Washington State
(DSHS Aging & Long-Term Support Administration - search topic: Guardianship Basics)