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4 Types of Power of Attorney Available in Pennsylvania


Power of attorney (POA) offer a versatile legal framework for ensuring that your decisions and assets are handled according to your wishes, even when you’re not able to oversee them directly. It’s vitally important to understand the different types of POAs available if you’re in need of this type of authority. In the state of Pennsylvania, there are four types of POAs that you can choose from (General, Limited, Springing and Durable). Using one can be a great estate planning tool where you can ensure that your wishes are met. If you need help with this, other estate planning tactics or any long-term financial matters, consider talking to a financial advisor.

How a Power of Attorney Works

A POA is a legal document that grants one individual, designated as the agent or attorney-in-fact, the authority to act on behalf of another person, referred to as the principal, in legal matters. This delegation of authority enables the agent to make decisions and perform actions as if they were the principal, within the boundaries stipulated by the POA. The significance of a POA lies in its ability to ensure that the principal’s affairs can be managed without their direct involvement, which is particularly crucial when the principal is unable to act on their own, whether due to absence, illness or incapacity.

The scope of authority granted by a POA can be wide-ranging or narrowly defined and can be established to terminate on a specified date or upon the occurrence of a particular event. Understanding these parameters is essential for both the principal and the agent to ensure that the POA serves its intended purpose without overstepping legal boundaries. Now, let’s take a look at the four general types available in Pennsylvania.

1. General Power of Attorney

The general power of attorney is a proactive measure for those who want to ensure that their affairs are managed seamlessly. To be legally recognized in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a general power of attorney must comply with certain requirements. It should be in written form, dated and signed by the principal. It also necessitates the signatures of two witnesses and a notary public’s acknowledgment.

Pennsylvania law includes additional protections, such as a notice that explains the document’s implications to the principal and an acknowledgment by the agent, confirming their understanding and acceptance of the responsibilities involved. These steps are crucial for safeguarding everyone’s interests and ensuring that the document accurately embodies the principal’s wishes.

2. Limited Power of Attorney

A limited power of attorney (LPOA) is a legal instrument that enables an individual, known as the principal, to appoint an agent or attorney-in-fact to act on their behalf in specific matters. This document is particularly distinct from a general power of attorney as it confines the agent’s powers to a particular domain or task. For instance, an LPOA may be drafted to authorize the agent to handle a property sale, manage certain financial accounts or make medical decisions under certain conditions.

The state provides predefined forms for different categories of LPOA, such as those pertaining to financial matters or healthcare decisions. These standardized forms are designed to streamline the process and ensure adherence to legal standards. They can be procured from the Pennsylvania Department of State or through legal professionals who specialize in estate planning. It is imperative for individuals to use these forms to guarantee the enforceability of the LPOA within the state, thereby safeguarding the actions taken by the agent under the authority granted by the principal.

3. Springing Power of Attorney

A couple researching different powers of attorney in Pennsylvania.

A springing power of attorney distinguishes itself by its conditional nature. This type of POA remains dormant until a specified event or condition occurs, most commonly the incapacitation of the principal. The springing POA thus serves a dual purpose: it provides a safeguard for the principal’s affairs in the event they are unable to manage them due to incapacity, while also ensuring that the principal retains control over their affairs until such a time as the POA is required to become active. This arrangement offers peace of mind for those who may be concerned about prematurely relinquishing control over their personal, financial or business matters.

4. Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney (DPOA) authorizes a designated individual, known as the agent or attorney-in-fact, to manage the affairs of the principal — the person who grants the authority — if they become incapacitated. Unlike a general power of attorney, a DPOA endures even if the principal’s mental capacity diminishes. In jurisdictions like Pennsylvania, the DPOA ensures that the principal’s financial, legal and health-related matters can be addressed without court intervention. This document is essential for maintaining control over one’s affairs during unexpected periods of incapacitation.

How a Durable Power of Attorney Works for Health Care

In health care, a durable power of attorney plays a crucial role as it empowers the appointed agent to make medical decisions for the principal when they are no longer capable. The agent’s authority is extensive, covering consultations with health care providers, treatment decisions and end-of-life care choices. It is crucial that these decisions reflect the principal’s known wishes and best interests, adhering to any advance directives.

Bottom Line

A couple setting up a power of attorney in Pennsylvania.

Powers of attorney are essential in ensuring that an individual’s affairs are managed according to their wishes, particularly in times of absence, illness or incapacitation. Each type of POA serves a unique and critical role in legal and estate planning. The choice of which POA to implement requires a thorough understanding of one’s needs and the legal stipulations within the state.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Making sure you’ve planned out where your assets will go when you die is a major part of estate planning. There is a lot more that goes into your estate plan though, such as avoiding probate and making sure you’re taken care of if you can’t take care of yourself. A financial advisor can make sure you’ve set all of this up and that it takes into consideration your larger financial plan. 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 complete your estate plan on your own, consider these potential risks to DIY estate planning.

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