Planning for a time when you may be unable to make decisions for yourself can be upsetting and unnerving for all involved. That only makes it all the more important to designate power of attorney for when it may actually happen. Otherwise, your medical and financial wishes can go unknown and unfulfilled. An estate planning attorney can help.
At Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam, we can explain the various forms you may need to employ to prepare for your own future and that of your family.
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 you may enact. They include:
Pennsylvania law deems all powers of attorney are durable unless the documents specifically state otherwise. This type does not end when the principal, or person who gives another power over financial affairs, becomes incapacitated. This type becomes effective only when the principal and the agent sign the document.
This type ends when the principal becomes incapacitated. In general, these types often involve financial matters of e-filing tax returns, paying bills, and borrowing money. It’s not common to use this type.
This type goes into effect at a specific date or after a named event occurs. In order to be valid, the power of attorney must explicitly state the date or event it should come into effect. Typically, those creating these powers of attorney will say that this type 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 addition, you can request a medical provider to make that determination.
While all the previous forms are specific to financial decisions, there is a form that 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 only comes into effect when you are incapacitated. Such decisions an agent can make include:
While an agent of this type has the power to make medical choices on your behalf, your living will explains what your medical wishes are.
It is important to remember that no matter your needs, it is always best to select someone you trust. Just as important, you should select someone who agrees with your personal choices as much as possible. Sometimes a friend may make for a better choice for your health, but a family member may agree more with what to do with your money. Talk to your potential choices and weigh the options as best you can.
In addition, it is beneficial to work with an estate planning attorney who can explain the process to you and your agent. Experienced attorneys like those at Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam will ensure no components have been left out.
At Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam, 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 Northeast Pennsylvania estate planning attorneys of Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam today. We help families in Scranton navigate all of life’s journeys.
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