Planning for a time when you may be unable to make decisions for yourself can often be upsetting and, frankly, unnerving for all involved. However, having the needed documentation in place to ensure your medical and financial wishes are known by your named agent is a critical component of the estate planning process.
At Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano, we can explain the various forms of power of attorney you may need to employ to prepare for your own future and that of your family.
What is a power of attorney?
Under Pennsylvania law, 20 Pa.C.S. Chapter 56, a power of attorney is defined as a written document used to authorize another individual to act as your agent or attorney-in-fact should you be unable to act on your own behalf.
In the Keystone State, there are various forms of power of attorney you may enact. They include:
- Durable Power of Attorney
- Simple Power of Attorney
- Springing Power of Attorney
Durable Power of Attorney
Pennsylvania law deems all powers of attorney are durable unless the power of attorney specifically states otherwise. A durable power of attorney is one that does not end when the principal, or person who gives another power over financial affairs, becomes incapacitated. A durable power of attorney becomes effective only when the principal and the agent sign the document.
Simple Power of Attorney
Opposite of the durable power of attorney, the simple power of attorney ends when the principal becomes incapacitated. In general, these types of power of attorney often involve financial matters of e-filing tax returns, paying bills, and borrowing money.
The simple power of attorney is rarely used.
Springing Power of Attorney
A springing power of attorney goes into effect at a specific date or after a named event occurs. In order to be valid, the date or event must be explicitly named within the power of attorney. Typically, those creating these powers of attorney will say that the power of attorney is effective once he or she becomes incapacitated.
If incapacitation is the event that springs the power of attorney into effect, it is wise to give guidelines that determine such status. For example, you may want to name another individual as the decider of incapacitation or disability who is not the agent in the power of attorney. In addition, you can request a medical provider to make that determination.
Health Care Power of Attorney
While all the previous forms of power of attorney were specific to financial decisions, there is a form of power of attorney which pertains only to medical decisions.
A health care power of attorney allows you to name an individual to make decisions about your medical care. This is also known as having a health care proxy. This only comes into effect when you are incapacitated. Such decisions a health care power of attorney can make include:
- Personal care management
- Hiring a personal care assistant
- Medical treatment
While the person named your health care power of attorney has the power to make medical choices on your behalf, your living will explains what those medical wishes are.
It is important to remember that no matter the needs you are trying to address in your power of attorney for financial and/or medical decisions, it is always best to select someone you trust. In addition, it is beneficial to work with an estate planning attorney who can explain the process to you and your agent, as well as ensure no components of the power of attorney have been left out.
Power of Attorney: Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano
At Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano, we know the stressors that are perpetuated by planning for the future. But it’s critically important for your future, and that of your family, that you do. If you have questions about creating powers of attorney for financial and medical needs, contact the estate planning attorneys of Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano today. We help families in Scranton navigate all of life’s journeys.