A power of attorney is a critical piece of the estate planning process. Having a power of attorney ensures there is someone to handle your affairs if you were to ever become incapacitated in some way. Power of attorney in Pennsylvania involves a principal, agent (fiduciary), and understanding of the legal responsibilities to act in the principal’s best interest. A power of attorney gives the agent thee powers to control the assets of the principal and administer financial actions.
Being designated as an agent or deciding who will be your agent are serious matters; making this decision and having power of attorney for a loved one are not to be taken lightly. There are four duties required of an agent under Pennsylvania law.
First, an agent must exercise the powers for the benefit of the principal. The agent must keep the principal’s assets separate from his or her own, exercise reasonable caution and prudence, as well as keep a full and accurate record of all actions/transactions taken on behalf of the principal. Upon death of the principal, the power of attorney is no longer valid, and the agent under the power of attorney does not have authority to administer the estate.
Without a power of attorney in the event you become incapacitated, family must then file guardianship proceedings with the courts. It is a public proceeding that requires family prove to the court that you are incapable of handling your affairs – this is can be both financially and emotionally draining for your loved ones. Ultimately, the court will appoint the individual that will handle your money and your health.
Rather than leaving this major decision in the hands of the court, it is wise to consult with an experienced estate lawyer to draft a proper power of attorney that will protect your interests should you become incapacitated. Also, being an agent under a power of attorney can be a challenge – having an estate lawyer on your side can ensure the proper execution of duties.
Contact our office today by calling (215) 486-8171 or submitting an online inquiry form for more information and to schedule a consultation with a Doylestown estate lawyer.