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The irony regarding estate planning is that perhaps the most important estate planning document has nothing to do with one’ death, but rather, has full legal affect only when a person is alive. This is the Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney is perhaps the most important legal document that a person may execute in a lifetime. The purpose of a Power of Attorney is to allow a person to appoint another to act on that person’s behalf to handle matters of great importance. This person appointed under the Power of Attorney is known under Pennsylvania law as an “Agent”. The person appointing the Agent is known as the Principal.

The most common Power of Attorney we prepare for clients is a General Durable Power of Attorney. General refers to the general list of powers that the Agent has. These typically include the power to handle banking transactions, stock and bond transactions, real estate transactions, and various other powers relative to a person’s financial needs. The term “Durable” refers to the fact that a Power of Attorney continues to have legal effect even after the Principal has become seriously ill, incapacitated, or disabled.

Typically, in addition to the General Durable Power of Attorney, we recommend that clients review and execute a Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney. In a Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney, a person appoints another to act as their Agent to make important medical decisions in the event that the person is unable to make such important medical decisions. In a Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney, the Agent typically has the power to make medical decisions on behalf of the Principal; authorize the Principal’s admission to a hospital, personal care facility, or nursing facility; and hire and fire medical personnel on behalf of the Principal.

Without question these Powers of Attorney give a person the flexibility to handle the important affairs of a loved one should their loved one become ill, or for some reason unable to handle their important affairs. More importantly, Powers of Attorney, when used properly, can give a family the peace of mind knowing that the important financial affairs and crucial medical decisions relative to the loved one will be carried out despite their loved one’s advanced age, illness, or declining health.


The Process:

  1. Meet with the client and review the confidential client questionnaire to determine the feasibility of a General Durable Power of Attorney and Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney.

  2. Have the client determine what person or persons are best suited to be their Agent(s) under each Power of Attorney.

  3. Prepare initial draft for the client’s review.

  4. Follow up with client to discuss client’s review of the General Power of Attorney draft and make any revisions as needed until client is prepared to execute each Power of Attorney.

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