November 28th, 2023

How to Create an Effective Power of Attorney in Pennsylvania

Having a valid Power of Attorney (POA) is vital to ensuring that your financial interests are protected should you become unable to make financial decisions for yourself. At Gross McGinley, LLP, our estate planning lawyers help clients create effective Powers of Attorney that can make things easier for their loved ones during challenging times.

What Is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that authorizes a trusted Agent to make financial decisions on behalf of an individual (the “Principal”) when they cannot do so themselves. Generally, a Power of Attorney enables the Agent to manage the Principal’s financial accounts, pay expenses, deposit moneys, sell properties, and to manage other financial affairs.

Pennsylvania has also deemed certain financial powers as “extraordinary” as a result of the financial loss that can be suffered by the Principal, or the Principal’s estate, if the Agent should abuse their discretion with respect to such powers. Some of these powers include gifting of funds, changing of beneficiary designation forms, and the power to engage in digital asset transactions. If a Principal wishes to grant these powers to their Agent, such powers must be specifically included in their Power of Attorney.

Considering the above, Powers of Attorney should be drafted by and executed under the supervision of an estate planning attorney to ensure that the appropriate powers are granted, and that all execution requirements are met. Failure to attach the required notice, or to properly witness and notarize the document, can invalidate the Power of Attorney and cause serious financial repercussions in the event of a Principal’s incapacity.

Types of POA

A Power of Attorney may be springing. The difference between a springing Power of a Attorney and a non-springing Power of Attorney is the timing of when the document becomes effective.

A non-springing Power of Attorney is effective immediately upon the Principal’s signature. The primary Agent named in the document does not need to wait for the Principal to become incapacitated, hospitalized, or for some other event, to be authorized to act pursuant to the document.

A springing Power of Attorney becomes effective only upon the Principal’s incapacity. As such, it will also set out the requirements that deem the Principal incapacitated. Often these requirements include written letters from two physicians indicating that the Principal is incapacitated, or a writing by the Principal acknowledging that he or she is unable to manage his or her own affairs.

A springing Power of Attorney may pose logistical difficulties for an Agent who is trying to manage the Principal’s financial accounts in the event of an emergency. Without the required attestations of physicians, a financial institution may decline to allow an Agent access to the Principal’s account.

Choosing a POA Agent

Typically, people choose a trusted family member or friend to act as their Agent under Power of Attorney. This person should be responsible, trustworthy, and available to perform the job if necessary. It is also prudent to consider backup Agents in the event that the primary named Agent is unavailable to act during a time of need.

Contact Us to Learn More about Power of Attorney in Pennsylvania

Over the last 40 years, Gross McGinley, LLP has provided exceptional legal services to clients and has built a solid reputation in the Pennsylvania legal community. We provide a wide range of legal services, including criminal defense, family law, business law, litigation, estate planning, business and employment law, real estate, and more.

If you need help with estate planning, family law matters, or creating a power of attorney in Pennsylvania, contact us or call 610-820-5450.

The content found in this resource is for informational reference use only and is not considered legal advice. Laws at all levels of government change frequently and the information found here may be or become outdated. It is recommended to consult your attorney for the most up-to-date information regarding current laws and legal matters.