Most of us don’t want to think about what will happen when we die or become too sick or injured to make decisions for ourselves. Studies show fewer than 50% of American adults have an estate plan in place.
But proper planning for unforeseen events is more than creating a will to distribute your assets. Having a power of attorney is an essential part of an estate plan to protect yourself and your family.
What are the various documents to consider?
A power of attorney is a legal document where you designate another person to act on your behalf and make financial, medical or other decisions if you are incapacitated. These include:
- General power of attorney: This gives your agent the ability to make any decisions for legal and financial matters.
- Limited power of attorney: This document will designate specific decisions your agent can make and the time period during which that power is granted.
- Durable power of attorney: This form authorizes your agent to make decisions for you in the event you cannot physically or mentally perform those tasks yourself.
- Medical power of attorney: This is a form of a durable power of attorney which allows your agent to make medical decisions if you become incapacitated. This is also known as a health care proxy.
What are the requirements in Pennsylvania?
A power of attorney must be signed and dated by you, known as the principal, and two adult witnesses and notarized. Getting a power of attorney in the Keystone State is not as easy as in other states since the legislature has not created standard forms for financial and medical powers of attorney.
If you become ill or injured and can’t make decisions for yourself and don’t have a power of attorney, a court will appoint a guardian, and it may not be the person you would have chosen. An experienced estate planning attorney here in Pennsylvania can help you with what can be a complicated process and find the best solution to protect you and your family, giving you peace of mind.