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How to Get a Financial Power of Attorney in Pennsylvania


In Pennsylvania, a power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that can empower a designated agent to act on your behalf should such situations arise. With various types of POAs available, tailored to address specific needs from healthcare to financial management, understanding the legal requirements of these documents is essential for effective personal planning. If you’re looking for comprehensive estate planning advice, a financial advisor can help you create a personalized plan.

How a Power of Attorney Works in Pennsylvania

A power of attorney in Pennsylvania is a legal document that grants one person, known as the agent or attorney-in-fact, the authority to act on behalf of another, the principal, in various capacities. This allows the agent to make decisions that carry significant legal and financial consequences for the principal. The scope of the agent’s power can range widely, from general management of the principal’s entire portfolio to specific tasks like handling real estate transactions or making healthcare decisions. Establishing a POA is an important step in preparing for situations where the principal might be unable to manage their own affairs due to health issues, disability or other reasons.

While a POA can be a powerful tool, it’s important to recognize that it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Individual circumstances will dictate the most appropriate course of action. Creating a POA is not a guarantee against all potential legal or financial complications, but it is a step towards safeguarding your interests.

Types of Powers of Attorney in Pennsylvania

Understanding the various types of powers of attorney (POAs) and their implications is a fundamental aspect of legal and financial planning in Pennsylvania. Here are four common types available to residents in the state of Pennsylvania:

Financial Power of Attorney

A financial power of attorney is a legal document that grants someone the authority to manage your financial affairs on your behalf. This person, known as the agent or attorney-in-fact, can make decisions and take actions related to your finances, such as paying bills, managing investments, handling banking transactions and filing taxes. The specific powers granted can vary based on the terms outlined in the document, and they can be broad or limited depending on your preferences.

Springing Power of Attorney

A springing POA is designed to “spring” into action upon the occurrence of a predetermined event, such as the principal’s incapacitation, which must be medically certified. So, as an example, if you were to suddenly become incapacitated due to an accident or illness, a springing POA can ensure that your chosen agent immediately take over the management of your affairs without delay.

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable POA remains in effect even after the principal becomes incapacitated. This type of POA is essential for anyone who wishes to ensure that their affairs will be continuously managed without interruption, regardless of their health status. It’s worth asking yourself: Would my financial and legal affairs be well-managed if I were unable to oversee them myself?

Medical Power of Attorney

A healthcare POA is specifically focused on only allowing the agent to make informed medical decisions. It is used when the principal is unable to make healthcare choices but doesn’t provide power for financial matters or other things. By appointing a trusted agent, you can ensure that your medical treatment preferences are respected, even if you cannot communicate them.

Requirements to Create a Valid Financial Power of Attorney in PA

A couple looking over a power of attorney in Pennsylvania.

To create a financial power of attorney (POA) in Pennsylvania, you’ll need to follow these eight common steps:

  1. Determine your agent: Choose someone you trust to act as your agent. This person will make financial decisions on your behalf.
  2. Choose the type of POA: Decide whether you want a general or specific POA. A general POA grants broad powers, while a specific POA limits the agent’s authority to certain financial matters.
  3. Download or obtain a form: Pennsylvania provides standardized forms for power of attorney. You can download the form from the Pennsylvania Department of Aging’s website or obtain it from an attorney.
  4. Complete the form: Fill out the form accurately, including your name, the agent’s name, the powers you’re granting, and any specific instructions or limitations.
  5. Sign the form: You must sign the POA form in the presence of a notary public. The agent may also need to sign to acknowledge their responsibilities.
  6. Witnesses: Some states, including Pennsylvania, require witnesses in addition to notarization. Typically, two witnesses who are not named in the POA should watch you sign the document. They should also sign the document and provide their contact information.
  7. Keep copies: Keep the original signed and notarized POA in a safe place, and give copies to your agent, trusted family members, and any institutions where the POA may be needed (like banks or investment firms).
  8. Inform relevant parties: Make sure your agent knows they’ve been appointed and inform any financial institutions or organizations that may need to recognize the POA.

When creating of a POA, it’s important to be mindful of common pitfalls, such as neglecting to provide clear instructions within the document or choosing an agent without the necessary trustworthiness or competence to handle the responsibilities. It’s also prudent to consult with an attorney familiar with Pennsylvania’s laws to ensure your POA meets all legal requirements and adequately protects your interests.

Duties of an Agent in Pennsylvania

The role of an agent is outlined with precision in the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, Title 20, Chapter 56. This legal framework establishes the parameters within which an agent may operate, granting them the authority to act on behalf of the principal in various domains, such as financial affairs, real estate transactions and healthcare decisions.

Pennsylvania law requires that an agent maintain records of all receipts, disbursements and transactions executed on behalf of the principal, as per Section 5601(c)(2). Record-keeping practices are essential, as they encompass the systematic documentation of financial statements, receipts and all actions undertaken by the agent.

Bottom Line

A financial advisor discussing different types of POAs for clients in Pennsylvania.

The power of attorney (POA) is a legal estate planning document in Pennsylvania that allows individuals to appoint trusted agents to manage their affairs in times of incapacity or absence. Understanding the requirements and purposes of different POAs, as well as the duties of an agent, you can make informed estate planning decisions to ensure that your affairs are managed efficiently for you and your loved ones.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • A financial advisor can help you create an estate plan that includes powers of attorney for your specific needs. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Before trying to dive into your own estate plan, make sure you understand the potential dangers of DIY estate planning in general.

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