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Types of Powers of Attorney

In the previous posts, the different approaches to elder law were discussed. The most advantageous approach, the proactive approach, includes the preparation of several important documents. Foremost, among those documents, are Powers of Attorney. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the law provides for two types of powers of attorney:

  1. Financial Powers of Attorney; and
  2. Health Care Powers of Attorney/Living Wills

A financial Power of Attorney is a document signed by you, the principal, which gives the power and authority to another person of your choosing, the Attorney-in-Fact or Agent, to conduct your affairs and make decisions pertaining to your affairs in the event you are not able to make those decisions yourself. As the name implies, the financial power of attorney pertains to powers over your assets. This authority can be as broad or as narrow as you wish. This power lasts for a period of time determined by the principal. Powers of Attorney can be changed or revoked at any time until incapacity occurs.

The usual type of financial Power of Attorney in Pennsylvania is a Durable Power of Attorney. “Durable” means that it survives any incapacity and therefore, is a very viable and much less expensive alternative to a guardianship.

The Health Care Power of Attorney pertains to power over your healthcare decisions. This document includes two important sections: the Durable Health Care Power of Attorney and the Living Will. The Durable Health Care Power of Attorney names your agent and grants legal authority to that person to make any necessary healthcare decisions for you. The agent is appointed to ensure that you receive the type of medical treatment you desire if you are unable to make such decisions for yourself. The Living Will section specifies the type of treatment you want or do not want at life’s end when you are in a vegetative state or suffering from a terminal illness and are being kept alive by artificial means.

Powers of attorney might seem straightforward, but there are many laws regulating their use. In subsequent posts, we will examine specifics about the Powers of Attonrey, such as duties of the agent and when the powers of attorney become effective and terminate.

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