Not sure whether my status affects the question I have or not... I am a Russian citizen living in the US as a non-resident alien.

I want to let my fiancée represent my interests and will absolutely everywhere when it's needed. I also want her to be able to manage pretty much any single aspect of our financial life if situation forces her. Again, no limitations here – I trust her 100%. So, for example, I want her to be able to access my banking accounts, acquire and sell property of any kind, etc.

What kind of Power of Attorney will grant her these legal permissions? In Russia we'd call such document a "General Power of Attorney". To get it, you'd need to officially notarize it. How does it work in the US?

(Note: I live in Washington state.)

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    You could skip the Notary Public and have two witnesses (that are not related to you both in any way sign it), but the Notary Public is the recommended way to go. Notary Public officials are everywhere and they're cheap. Even your bank may have one on staff. PS: I'm not a lawyer. Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 6:34

1 Answer 1


As it happens, the law was just changed, effective 1/1/2017, and here are the changes. One part, section 105(1), states

A power of attorney must be signed and dated by the principal, and the signature must be either acknowledged before a notary public or other individual authorized by law to take acknowledgments, or attested by two or more competent witnesses who are neither home care providers for the principal nor care providers at an adult family home or long-term care facility in which the principal resides, and who are unrelated to the principal or agent by blood, marriage, or state registered domestic partnership, by subscribing their names to the power of attorney, while in the presence of the principal and at the principal's direction or request.

then 105(3) states

A signature on a power of attorney is presumed to be genuine if the principal acknowledges the signature before a notary public or other individual authorized by law to take acknowledgments.

That leaves open the possibility that there could be a dispute over the legitimacy of your signature if you use two witnesses. A related reason to prefer a notarized version is that it is "acknowledged" under Sec. 119 (1):

For purposes of this section and section 120 of this act, "acknowledged" means purportedly verified before a notary public or other individual authorized to take acknowledgments.

The reason why an "acknowledged" POA is a good thing is that there is also (new) law that gives such a POA special (good) status. Sect 119 continues:

(2)A person that in good faith accepts an acknowledged power of attorney without actual knowledge that the signature is not genuine may rely upon the presumption under section 105 of this act that the signature is genuine.

(3) A person that in good faith accepts an acknowledged power of attorney without actual knowledge that the power of attorney is void, invalid, or terminated, that the purported agent's authority is void, invalid, or terminated, or that the agent is exceeding or improperly exercising the agent's authority may rely upon the power of attorney as if the power of attorney were genuine, valid and still in effect, the agent's authority were genuine, valid and still in effect, and the agent had not exceeded and had properly exercised the authority.

A prudent person would not hand over your stuff to a stranger or someone claiming to have power of attorney, unless they were sure that the person with a POA form actually had a legitimate POA form. They would be liable for damages if they gave away your stuff to an unauthorized person. An acknowledged POA is better than a POA with two neighbors as witnesses, because the acknowledged POA further establishes that the signature is valid.

Section 120 also requires acceptance of an acknowledged POA within 7 days (whereas with neighbor signatures, further investigation may be called for, meaning delays).

The existing statute is here, which is the law at the moment. There is no mention of a notary requirement, and no witness signature requirement (that changes). Section 40(1) says that "Any person acting without negligence and in good faith in reasonable reliance on a power of attorney shall not incur any liability" – now, is it negligence to accept a signature (of a principle) without investigating its validity? I really don't know. If you follow the new rules and get it notarized, that is covered. RCW 11.94.010 addresses the "what type" question, that is, whether the POA remains valid if you are incapacitated, or becomes effective once you are incapacitated. The point is that you have to say what they can do, and when they can. There is in fact a site with templates that gives you some idea what the kinds of POAs there are. I'm not vouching for the correctness of their templates.

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