While it's not a pleasant thought, Pennsylvanians should take the time to plan for the possibility that they might become incapacitated and need someone else to make decisions for them. Many people are seriously injured in accidents, and others are disabled by illnesses. Having durable powers of attorney in place can help to protect the interests of an incapacitated person.
Financial and medical powers of attorney
Powers of attorney grant the authority to make decisions on behalf of the principal to another person, who is called an agent or attorney-in-fact. This person does not have to be a lawyer. Instead, the attorney-in-fact is simply allowed to make the decisions for the principal to the degree of the authority granted. Powers of attorney may be medical or financial, and the principal can grant limited or full authority to act to the agent. The principal can also grant different powers to different people, but it is best to draft separate powers of attorney to do this instead of including all of the different powers in a single POA.
Springing vs. non-springing powers of attorney
Powers of attorney can also be springing or non-springing. A non-springing power of attorney is effective as soon as it is signed. This means that the agent will immediately have the authority to use the powers granted by the principal. A springing power of attorney only becomes effective when a specific event occurs. In most cases, the triggering event for a springing power of attorney is the incapacitation of the principal. Many springing POAs require two doctors to sign attestations that the principal is incapacitated before they will be effective.
A power of attorney is an important estate planning tool that many Pennsylvanians might consider. Having POAs in place can make it easier for family members when a loved one becomes incapacitated and unable to make decisions. An experienced estate planning lawyer might assist a client by drafting POAs that grant only the necessary degree of authority.