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Power of Attorney in Pennsylvania

Authored By: Northwestern Legal Services
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What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a written document that allows you (the "principal") to give someone else (your "agent") legal authority to act on your behalf in certain matters. You must choose who will act as your agent and specify what powers you are giving to your agent (what your agent is allowed to do for you). You may select any competent adult to act as your agent. The authority that a Power of Attorney gives to your agent can be as limited as selling your car for you or as broad as making financial and health care decisions on your behalf.
 

Who should I choose to be my agent?

You should be very careful about who you choose to be your agent. Your agent will be able to make decisions that are legally binding on you, so it is very important that you choose a person who you can trust and who knows you well.

You may select more than one person to act as your agent and you may name a successor agent if your original agent is unable or unwilling to continue to act as your agent.
 

What happens if I become mentally unable to make my own decisions?

You must be mentally competent at the time that the Power of Attorney is created for it to be valid. If you execute a valid Power of Attorney and then later become mentally unable to make your own decisions, your Power of Attorney will continue to remain in effect unless it specifically says otherwise. By naming an agent ahead of time, you can make sure that someone you trust will look after your affairs when you are unable to do so yourself.
 

When does a Power of Attorney go into effect?

You can designate a time that your Power of Attorney will become effective. You can do this by specifying a future date, or an event that must take place. For example, your Power of Attorney can be written so that it starts only when you cannot make decisions for yourself.

If you do not specify a time for your Power of Attorney to become effective, it will become effective as soon as it is executed.
 

When does a Power of Attorney end?

If you decide that you no longer want or need a Power of Attorney, or if you change your mind about who your agent is, you can terminate a Power of Attorney by giving written notice to your agent. You should also give notice to your bank, your doctor, or anyone else who got a copy of your Power of Attorney. You can revoke a Power of Attorney at any time.

In some cases, the Power of Attorney will terminate automatically. When you create the Power of Attorney, you can arrange for it to end at a certain time by including an expiration date into the document. In most cases, a Power of Attorney will also end automatically if your spouse is your agent and a divorce is filed. Finally, a Power of Attorney will end automatically when you die and your agent learns of your death.

In some cases, the Power of Attorney will terminate automatically. When you create the Power of Attorney, you can arrange for it to end at a certain time by including an expiration date into the document. In most cases, a Power of Attorney will also end automatically if your spouse is your agent and a divorce is filed. Finally, a Power of Attorney will end automatically when you die and your agent learns of your death.
 

What is the process for setting up a Power of Attorney?

You must sign and date your Power of Attorney. If you are unable to sign your name, you must have two adults witness and sign the document. Depending on the type of Power of Attorney, your agent may have to sign an Acknowledgment.

You should execute multiple original copies of the Power of Attorney so that your agent will be able to provide an original to your bank or your doctor upon request. You may file the document at the courthouse, but it is not necessary to do so.

In Pennsylvania, most Powers of Attorney must contain specific language, such as a notice to the principal, in order to be valid. It is a good idea to have a legal professional prepare and/or review your Power of Attorney for you before you sign it.

Please contact your local legal services program for representation or if you have any questions surrounding Power of Attorney.


We have attempted to insure the accuracy of the information in this pamphlet at the time it was created or revised. However, the law does change, sometimes quickly and unexpectedly. Therefore, you should consult an attorney before taking or refraining from any action based on the information in this pamphlet.

 

Last Review and Update: Jul 02, 2010