Why Do I Need a Power of Attorney?

By: John H. Filice, Esquire

Introduction:

Powers of Attorney are documents delegating power to an agent who may then take actions authorized by the document. A Power of Attorney may be limited (i.e. I give my daughter the authority to attend the real estate settlement for 123 My House Drive, Lansdale, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania 19446, and to sign my name to all of the documents necessary to complete the sale of my home.) A Power of Attorney may be general, covering a variety of powers your agent may carry out for you. A General Durable Power of Attorney can reduce the time and expense of a loved one attempting to assist you if you become incapable of handling your own affairs.

General Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Matters:

You can give a person the authority to pay your bills using your assets. Your agent will be able to sign your checks, buy and sell property for you, collect money from those who owe you, and even prepare, sign and file your tax returns. In the event that you are in a situation in which advanced estate planning and annual gifting are advisable, your agent will be able to take those actions for you. Without a Power of Attorney, your loved one may not be able to assist you in these matters short of filing a Petition with the Orphan's Court to be appointed the Guardian of your Estate by a Judge. This can be a costly and time-consuming process.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Authorizing Refusal of Medical Treatment:

You have probably received a Privacy Policy Notice from your doctor. If you took the time to read it, you realize how complicated and strict the regulations requiring medical facilities to guard your medical records and prevent unauthorized disclosures are. While preventing the dissemination of your personal information is a worthy goal, these rules and regulations will make it difficult for your loved ones to deal with your medical and insurance providers at a time when you are hospitalized. These difficulties can be avoided by executing a Power of Attorney authorizing an agent to handle your medical care for you.

Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, you may grant your agent authority to consent to or refuse medical treatment for you. Doctors have an ethical obligation to do everything possible to extend a person's life. Doctors also fear the possibility of lawsuits instituted by grieving family members whose loved one was removed from life support. As a result, in the absence of a written expression of your wishes, you are likely to receive life-sustaining treatment even if you are in a terminal condition or irreversible coma. For this reason, it is preferable to have a Power of Attorney giving an agent the authority to make any and all medical decisions for you and allowing that agent to force the medical providers to carry out your wishes. Your Medical Power of Attorney can and should include a Living Will or Advance Directive to further advise your agent and the medical staff what treatments you want or do not want.

WHO SHOULD HAVE POWERS OF ATTORNEY:

Everybody. Powers of Attorney are prepared with the hope that they will never have to be used. Since accidents and emergencies occur unpredictably, it is impossible to know if or when a Power of Attorney will be needed. Unfortunately, by the time someone realizes that a Power of Attorney is needed, it is often too late. As previously mentioned, absent a Power of Attorney, in an emergency situation, your loved ones may be left with no alternative but to file an Incapacity Petition in order to have a Judge grant them the authority to act on your behalf.

CONCLUSION:

No one wants to think about a time in the future when he/she can no longer take care of him/herself. We do not like to think of a time when we will not be able to pay our own bills or communicate our own medical preferences. Preparing Powers of Attorney now will help prevent unfortunate circumstances from being more difficult for your loved ones than necessary. The attorneys at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg and Gifford have assisted individuals and their loved ones prepare for and cope with these situations in Montgomery County, Bucks County, and the surrounding counties in Pennsylvania for more than 60 years. If you have any questions, please contact our office and ask to speak with an attorney.