A power of attorney (POA) is a document that allows an agent to make certain decisions on your behalf when you are unavailable to do so for yourself. It is an important part of estate planning, because it gives you control over who will make financial and health care decisions for you when you cannot.
In a POA, the person making the decisions (the agent) does not necessarily have to be a lawyer. Anyone authorized to take legal action on another’s behalf is an attorney-in-fact, hence the name power of attorney.
A POA traditionally would terminate if you become disabled or incapacitated. However, in Pennsylvania a POA is presumed “durable,” or continuing, after disability or incapacity, unless it explicitly states otherwise.
There are two types of power of attorney: financial and health care. Both should be updated every few years, to ensure they are still legal and reflect your current wishes.
POAs that are more than ten years old may not be accepted as valid, due to the likelihood that they are no longer relevant.
Financial POA: This document grants someone the ability to make financial decisions on your behalf. You may give them limited or full control over some or all your financial affairs.
Financial POAs may either be durable or effective for a limited time. They may become effective immediately, or only in the event you become disabled or incapacitated, which is known as a springing POA.
Health Care POA: This document grants someone the ability to make health care decisions on your behalf. In Pennsylvania, your health care provider or their owner, operator, or employees, may not serve as your agent.
You may name the same person to be both your financial and health care agent.
Each state has its own requirements for POAs. While there is no specific form for either financial or health care POAs, the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes provides a mandatory Notice and acknowledgement provision to be included in all POAs. You may amend a generic POA form, or one from another state, so long as you include the mandatory Notice and acknowledgement.
To create a health care POA in Pennsylvania, you must be at least 18 years old, or you must have graduated from high school, be married, or legally emancipated.
Additionally, health care POAs must be:
If you do not have POA and you become disabled or incapacitated, the court may appoint a guardian. Court-appointed guardians, like POA agents, may resign at any time. The court may also end a guardianship if you can show that you are no longer incapacitated.
Guardianship proceedings tend to be lengthy and expensive. Therefore, it is best to consult with an experienced wills and estate lawyer to create a POA in advance.
For more information on how a Chester County wills and estates lawyer at Eckell Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. can help you with a POA or other estate matters, call us for a free consultation at 610-565-3700 or contact us online. We represent clients throughout Pennsylvania, including Media, Delaware County, Chester County and Montgomery County.