Need help with West Virginia power of attorney laws? You’ve come to the right place. This blog is the first in a series of three dealing with powers of attorney in the Mountain State. In it, we’ll give an overview of the most common powers of attorney. The remaining two blogs will address the legality of online power of attorney forms, as well as specific powers of attorney in West Virginia.
“Power of attorney,” “durable power of attorney,” “medical power of attorney”—a host of terms, and lots of forms. Assigning power of attorney to a trusted person or an “agent” acting on your behalf can be very beneficial to you and your estate, but it needs to be executed with knowledge of what that means and how it works. In many cases, the best and only way to make sure your power of attorney does what you want it to do (and doesn’t do anything you don’t want it to do) is to consult with an experienced West Virginia estate planning lawyer.
Isn’t there one simple way to accomplish this without having to do so much paperwork? Unfortunately, no. In West Virginia, as in many states, there are separate powers of attorney for property, health care, and other specific purposes.
West Virginia Power of Attorney Laws
General Powers of Attorney for Property in WV
In West Virginia, the Uniform Power of Attorney Act says that you can execute one form regarding decision-making about your property, including your money, investments, taxes, trusts, and real estate.
When you make a general of power of attorney, you call the shots:
You decide when it takes effect. It will remain in effect once you are incapacitated (durable power of attorney) unless you specify differently
You can add special instructions about naming a conservator or guardian in case you become incapacitated
You can name your agent in the power of attorney as a fiduciary, if you wish
It is important to understand that when you execute a power of attorney, any act your agent performs is binding on you and your estate. If you need help understanding or executing any of your property transactions, you should seek help in executing a power of attorney for those transactions.
WV Health Care Decision Making
Decisions about your health care are not included under the Uniform Power of Attorney Act. Planning for those decisions typically involves two documents: a living will and a medical power of attorney.
The West Virginia Health Care Decisions Act provides for a living will, a medical power of attorney, or a combined living will and medical power of attorney. The living will includes your wishes about medical interventions to prolong your life in special circumstances. The medical power of attorney allows your representative to make health care decisions for you when you are incapacitated and allows access to your medical records as needed.
West Virginia Living Will
A living will guides medical personnel and people close to you in understanding how much intervention you want to preserve your life when you are terminally ill or in a vegetative state. You may include special directives in your living will about feeding tubes, respirators, and other interventions that may prolong your life, although they may not improve your life. These are very personal and difficult decisions. Therefore, it is important to communicate them in a living will.
West Virginia Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney appoints a representative to make “health care decisions relating to medical treatment, surgical treatment, nursing care, medication, hospitalization, care and treatment in a nursing home or other facility, and home health care.” The person you appoint can consent to treatment, refuse treatment, or withdraw treatment on your behalf. It is important for this person to know your wishes and the type of decisions you would make about your health care, as well as the values you hold that impact those types of decisions. Your medical power of attorney must make the decisions you would make to the best of his/her knowledge.
Unlike the provisions for a West Virginia power of attorney under the Uniform Power of Attorney Act, the directives in a living will and a medical power of attorney apply when you are incapacitated. If you are able to speak for yourself, your decisions can be different from those in the living will or the medical power of attorney. It is wise to review these documents periodically to check that you have not changed how you would make those decisions.
Your living will and medical power work together to get you the care you want if you cannot later make treatment decisions yourself.
Consult an Experienced Estate Planning Lawyer for Help with Your West Virginia Power of Attorney
The person appointed your medical power of attorney does not have the same decision-making authority as your power attorney for your property and vice versa. But decisions made by the one may require activity by the other. It is advisable that you plan these documents together so that they complement one other and capture your desires for you and your estate.
State laws vary in how to establish a legal and valid power of attorney. If you need more information, or if you need experienced legal help setting up your West Virginia power of attorney, contact me, Anna M. Price, at Jenkins Fenstermaker. You may call me toll-free at 866.617.4736 or complete our firm's Contact form. I’ll make sure your power of attorney is legal and valid and your estate planning is on solid ground.