A power of attorney is an essential element of most estate planning. It authorizes another person, typically a spouse or child, to perform legal actions on your behalf. Examples of the type of authority in a normal power of attorney executed for estate purposes include making gifts, accessing safety deposit boxes, investing money, and filing taxes on your behalf.
For estate planning purposes, however, a simple power of attorney is insufficient. It is normally recommended that a Durable Power of Attorney be executed. This begs the question: What makes the power of attorney “durable?” And what does “durable” even mean?
The answer is contained in 20 Pa.C.S. § 5604. A durable power of attorney is one that grants legal authority to another on your behalf which will withstand any incapacity or disability that you may experience. In other words, your designated agent may continue to legally act on your behalf even if you are unable to perform the same act or make the same decision.
The benefit of a durable power of attorney is predictability and continuity in the event of your incapacity or disability. For example, lets say that you executed a durable power of attorney designating your child as your agent. Now, in the event that you suffer an instantly debilitating event, like a stroke, your child can step-in and ensure the continued and timely payments on obligations like mortgages and credit cards without penalty. Additionally, if the powers are included in the Durable Power of Attorney, your child will be authorized to make medical decisions consistent with your wishes.
If you or a loved one needs a Durable Power of Attorney or wants to update a Durable Power of Attorney, please contact me, Matthew T. Hovey, Esquire. My firm offers free initial consultations, during which we can review your situation and prior documentation in order to evaluate your estate planning needs. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.