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How to Make a Power of Attorney in Pennsylvania FAQ

Written by: Catherine Hodder, Esq. , Senior Legal Writer
Reviewed by: Jordan Walker, J.D. , Legal Writer
Last updated May 17, 2024

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A financial power of attorney lets you name someone to help you with your financial matters when you cannot. Learn what to consider and how to create a power of attorney in Pennsylvania.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document where a person (the “principal”) appoints another person (the “agent”) to make decisions and act on their behalf when they cannot. The powers can include managing financial affairs and handling other personal matters. A POA is convenient if you are traveling or necessary if you become incapacitated. You would appoint an agent in a health care power of attorney for healthcare decisions.

Who Can Be My Agent?

Any competent adult can serve as an agent in Pennsylvania. You can choose someone you trust, whether a family member, friend, or professional, such as an accountant, lawyer, bank, or trust company. Your agent has a fiduciary duty to act in good faith and your best interest. Avoid using co-agents as they complicate matters. If the co-agents must act jointly, nothing will get done if they have disagreements. If the co-agents can act independently, they may contradict actions and confuse banks and other agencies. It is best to name one agent and a backup or successor agent if your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve.

What Can My Agent Do in Pennsylvania?

You determine what authority you want to grant your agent. For example, you could have them access bank accounts, pay bills, and handle real estate transactions. Under Pennsylvania law, you can authorize your agent to do the following:

  • Create a trust for your benefit
  • Make additions to an existing trust for your benefit
  • Claim an elective share of the estate of your deceased spouse
  • Renounce fiduciary positions
  • Withdraw and receive the income or trust property
  • Engage in real property (your real estate) transactions
  • Engage in tangible personal property (your possessions) transactions
  • Engage in stock, bond, and other securities transactions
  • Engage in commodity and option transactions
  • Engage in banking and financial transactions
  • Borrow money
  • Enter safe deposit boxes
  • Engage in insurance and annuity transactions
  • Engage in retirement plan transactions
  • Handle interests in estates and trusts
  • Pursue claims and litigation
  • Receive government benefits
  • Pursue tax matters
  • Operate a business or entity
  • Provide for personal and family maintenance

However, there are certain powers that you must expressly grant to your agent because of the potential to reduce your estate. These powers are:

  • Create, amend, revoke, or terminate living trust.
  • Make a gift.
  • Create or change rights of survivorship.
  • Create or change a beneficiary designation.
  • Delegate authority granted under the power of attorney.
  • Waive the principal’s right to be a beneficiary of a joint and survivor annuity, including a survivor benefit under a retirement plan.
  • Exercise fiduciary powers that the principal has the authority to delegate.
  • Disclaim property, including a power of appointment.
  • Access the electronic communications and digital assets of the principal.

Some principals may want their agent to reduce their estate for estate tax purposes or to qualify for certain government benefits such as Medicaid. Think carefully about the powers you want your agent to have over your property and assets.

What Is a Durable Power of Attorney in Pennsylvania?

“durable” power of attorney means it remains in effect even if the principal becomes incapacitated or unable to make decisions for themselves. In Pennsylvania, a POA is presumed to be durable unless stated otherwise in the document.

When Is the Power of Attorney Effective?

In Pennsylvania, you determine when you want your power of attorney to begin. For example, it could be immediately or upon your incapacity or a specified date or event (called a springing power of attorney).

When Does the Power of Attorney End?

You can revoke your power of attorney if you are alive and still competent. Your power of attorney also ends if one of these events occurs:

  • The principal dies.
  • The agent dies, and there is no successor agent.
  • The agent is incapacitated or is unable or unwilling to serve, and there is no successor agent.
  • When a termination date or event in the power of attorney occurs.

Additionally, if your spouse is your agent and you get divorced, their agent’s authority ends when the divorce is filed. If you wanted your ex-spouse to remain your agent, you would expressly state it in your power of attorney.

Does Pennsylvania Have a Statutory Power of Attorney?

Pennsylvania does not offer a statutory power of attorney form. You can create your own power of attorney document customized to your needs or hire an estate planning attorney.

Can I Make My Own Power of Attorney in Pennsylvania?

Yes. If you know who you want as your agent and what powers you want to give them, you can create your own power of attorney document. Drafting one is easy with online POA forms. If you have questions about a power of attorney, you can hire an estate planning attorney for legal advice.

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How Do I Make My Power of Attorney Valid in Pennsylvania?

To make your POA valid, you must sign by signature or mark, or direct another individual to sign on your behalf in your presence. You need two witnesses to see you sign. Your witnesses must be 18 or older and not named as an agent, backup agent, or notary. A notary public also attests that the principal and witnesses signed the power of attorney.

Additionally, under 20 Pa.C.S.A. §5601(c), the POA must have a notice attached, signed by you, following the format in the statute.

Do I Have to Notarize My Power of Attorney in Pennsylvania?

Yes, a notary public, or another individual authorized by law to take acknowledgments, must acknowledge your power of attorney.

What Should I Do After Signing My Power of Attorney?

Once you sign your power of attorney, you should give copies to your agent, successor agent, banks, and other relevant parties. Some banks or financial institutions require your agent to complete an agent certification form, in which they attest that the power of attorney is effective and that they are authorized to serve as the agent.

Does a Power of Attorney Agent Get Paid in Pennsylvania?

Unless you state otherwise in your power of attorney, your agent shall be entitled to reasonable compensation based on the actual duties assumed and performed, reimbursement for actual expenses advanced on your behalf, and reasonable expenses incurred in connection with the performance of your agent’s duties.

Is My Pennsylvania Power of Attorney Valid in Another State?

Yes. A valid power of attorney created according to Pennsylvania’s legal requirements will be honored in another state.

Can I Revoke My Pennsylvania Power of Attorney?

Yes. You can revoke your power of attorney with a revocation document as long as you are still competent. In this document, you would reference the details of your original power of attorney, the date signed, and your agent’s name and state your wish to revoke the original POA. Give this revocation to all your agents, successor agents, and any bank or party with your original POA.

What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have in Pennsylvania?

A power of attorney is helpful when you need someone to handle your financial matters. However, you should also have a health care directive and a will for a complete estate plan.

health care directive, advance directive, or living will is a document where you designate a health care agent to make medical decisions and carry out your wishes for medical care. You can also detail instructions on what life-prolonging measures you want or do not want when you have an end-stage illness or terminal condition.

In a will, you can name someone to manage your estate (your personal representative), beneficiaries of your property, and guardians to care for your young children and pets. You are in charge of your estate, speeding up the probate process and saving your family members and loved ones time and money in court.

Fortunately, making a valid power of attorney and creating other Pennsylvania estate planning documents is easy with online estate planning templates.

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