A power of attorney document is no longer effective after the principal passes away. However, decisions made by an attorney-in-fact can, in some cases, still be valid even after the authorization of the power of attorney has lapsed.
According to the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 11.94.020, if the principal dies without the agent knowing and the agent uses the authority of the power of attorney to make a decision, then that decision is still valid as long as:
- The agent had no actual knowledge of the death of the principal; AND
- The agent acted in good faith
As long as the agent acted in good faith, all that is required to prove that he or she had no knowledge of the principal’s death is an affidavit, written by the agent, that says “at the time of doing the act pursuant to the power of attorney he/she had no actual knowledge of the revocation or termination of the power of attorney by death, disability, or incompetence.”
Once the agent has actual knowledge of the principal’s death, the power of attorney is officially terminated.
Finally, when drafting a power of attorney, it is also possible to write a provision which gives specific instructions for revocation or termination of the power of attorney. This provision trumps the guidelines outlined above. Therefore, if you decide that, in your power of attorney, you want the authority to strictly terminate at death, then you have the ability to have that stipulation drafted directly into your document.