The Importance of Having a Power of Attorney
When it comes to estate planning, one of the most important documents you can have is a power of attorney. This document gives someone you trust the authority to make decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself.
In Pennsylvania, there are specific laws that govern powers of attorney, so it is important to consult with an attorney to make sure your document is drafted correctly. There are also a few different types of powers of attorney, and each one has its own purpose.
What is a Power of Attorney (POA)?
A power of attorney (POA) is a document that appoints another person to make decisions on your behalf. This person is called your agent or attorney-in-fact. Powers of attorney can be general, allowing the agent to make any decision on your behalf, or they can be specific, allowing the agent to make only certain decisions. POAs are often used to allow someone to act on your behalf when you are unable to do so yourself, such as if you are out of town, seriously ill, imprisoned, or incapacitated. They can be used to manage your finances, property, or healthcare decisions.
Your agent (attorney-in-fact) has a lot of responsibility, including making decisions about your finances, health care, and living arrangements. As such, it is important to choose someone you trust who will make decisions that reflect your wishes.
What are Some Benefits of Having a Power of Attorney?
There are many benefits to having a power of attorney in place, but the two main benefits are:
- You and your loved ones can avoid the hassle and expense of court proceedings if someone else is needed to take care of your affairs; the person you designate as your agent can act quickly and efficiently on your behalf, without having to go through a lot of red tape.
- You get to designate someone you trust to make decisions for you if you become unable to do so. Not only that, but you also get to specify the powers your agent will have, so the agent can only make decisions that you would approve of. As such, if you move out of state or pass on, having a POA can ensure that your financial affairs remain secure, as the decisions made were all previously authorized by you.
What are the Types of Powers of Attorney in Pennsylvania?
There are several types of Powers of Attorney in Pennsylvania.
- The most common type is the Durable POA, which gives the agent authority to act on the principal’s behalf in any situation.
- The second type, the Durable POA for Finances, can be used to authorize the agent to handle just financial matters, including paying bills, managing investments, and collecting assets.
- Another option, the Durable POA for Health Care can be used to authorize the agent to make only medical decisions on the principal’s behalf if he or she is unable to do so.
- Other options include the Non-Durable POA and the Springing POA.
Unlike durable powers of attorney, a Non-Durable Power of Attorney expires when the task it was granted for is completed or when you revoke it. This POA is used for specific purposes, such as selling a house or car when you are out of the country or unable to make decisions for yourself.
A Springing Power of Attorney is a type of power of attorney that becomes effective only when a specific event occurs, such as the incapacity of the principal. It is often used to appoint someone to manage the principal’s affairs in the event that the principal becomes incapacitated.
Who Can Have a Power of Attorney in PA?
In Pennsylvania, anyone 18 years old and mentally competent can have a power of attorney. This means that they can choose someone to act on their behalf if they become unable to do so themselves.
What Happens if You Do Not Have a Power of Attorney?
If you do not have a power of attorney in place, and something happens to you, your family will have to go through a legal process known as guardianship or conservatorship in order to make decisions for you. This can be a costly and time-consuming process, and in the end, your appointed legal guardian may not have been the person you would have chosen to make decisions for you. It is important to have a power of attorney in place to avoid this situation.
How Do You Create a Power of Attorney?
First and foremost, as we mentioned earlier, the person creating the power of attorney must be competent and have the mental capacity to do so. The mental capacity of the principal is often disputed later by people who do not have your best interests at heart, so you need the right attorney who can, depending on the circumstances, have you complete a mental health evaluation prior to drafting the document. This evaluation would help to prove that you were, in fact, mentally capable of making such an important decision. Additionally, the lawyer could request that any witnesses present at the time of signing also attest to your mental state.
Secondly, the document must also be signed and dated by the person granting authority (the principal). However, if the principal is unable to sign the document themselves, another person may sign on their behalf as long as they have been appointed by the principal in writing and are aware of their authority.
Working with an experienced attorney can help you make sure that all the right clauses are included in your document. The attorney will also do all that is necessary, on your behalf, to ensure that the document is legally binding.
Speak to a Pennsylvania Estate Planning Attorney
In conclusion, having a power of attorney is important in case something happens to you and you are unable to make decisions for yourself. If you do not have a power of attorney, your family will have to go through the court system to get appointed as your legal guardian, which can be a long and expensive process. You can avoid all this by having a power of attorney in place. If you are interested in creating a power of attorney or want more information, please fill out this form or call us at (724) 571-2933 today.