POWER OF ATTORNEY & HEALTHCARE DIRECTIVES
Arguably one of the most important documents in estate planning is the power of attorney. No one wants to be a burden to their families and a power of attorney helps give the legal authority to a trusted individual so decisions can be made efficiently. By consulting with an estate lawyer about a power of attorney, there are many concerns that can be addressed and controlled.
What is a power of attorney?
A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that designates an individual (agent) to perform acts on behalf of the principal. Once a POA takes effect, the agent acts on behalf of the principal for matters concerning the principal. Power of attorney can be used to designate a specific person to handle a specific task, such as the sale of a property. Or it can be for the management of general finances on behalf of the principal.
There is also a health care power of attorney or healthcare directive in Pennsylvania which appoints an individual to make decisions about medical care on behalf of the principal. Should the principal become incapacitated in some way, this appoints an agent to make his or her medical decisions.
What are my duties as a power of attorney?
Being an agent for a parent or family member is not to be taken lightly. There are many responsibilities that come with this role, legally and otherwise. Normally, being designated as the agent is not a surprise; however, the level of responsibility can often catch an agent off guard. If you are an agent for someone under a power of attorney, Pennsylvania law states the following responsibilities.
- 1. Act in the principal’s best interests – this seems simple enough but outside influence can change that notion very quickly. It’s important to remember this as the guiding principle behind the agent’s duties.
- 2. Act in good faith and within the scope of authority granted by the power of attorney.
- 3. Keep agent’s funds separate from the principal’s funds; based upon timing of executing the power of attorney and relationship, i.e. a principal spouse commingles funds.
- 4. Act in such a manner that does not create a conflict of interest.
- 5. Keep a record of all financial transactions made on behalf of the principal.
- 6. Act in such a manner to preserve the estate plan of the principal.
If the power of attorney was executed after April 12, 2000, the agent must sign a document acknowledging these responsibilities. Without the acknowledgement, the agent cannot act on behalf of the principal.
Because appointing a power of attorney and being an agent are both difficult and important decisions, it is important to discuss the options with an experienced estate planning attorney. For some, the choice isn't always clear cut and for agents, the duties can become overwhelming. Our attorneys are here to help.
When you need an attorney to represent you with your legal matters, contact the Law Offices of Michael Kuldiner, P.C. in order to obtain the best results possible in each case. To arrange a consultation, please give us a call at (215) 942-2100 or contact us by submitting the form at top right.