People tend to think that power of attorney only arises when dealing with elderly family members whose mental capabilities are lessening with age. The truth is power of attorney can be a valuable part of every family’s emergency plan, ensuring that the needs of all family members may be met.
“Power of attorney comes in many different forms,” says Joe Covelli of Covelli Law Offices. “The power of attorney law was recently changed in Pennsylvania, and there are formalities that must be adhered to with any power of attorney. They can be simple or far- reaching—in regard to what powers are granted.”
A power of attorney document can be “tailor- made” – and encompass authority that is very limited or, alternatively, quite extensive. The document can simply grant authority to a grown child of an aging parent to pay bills as they become due. They can also be more customized, granting rights to several co-agents, or be “springing,” meaning that rights are granted to the agent only if a certain event takes place (such as the incapacity of the grantor).
“With co-agents, the power of attorney would require that both co-agents must sign anything related to the grantor’s personal affairs, putting into place a system of checks and balances,” Covelli explains. “Also, the grantee has the opportunity but not the duty to take on the obligations offered through the power of attorney. Just because you choose someone doesn’t mean they have to accept. If they do act, they must do so in a prudent manner, looking out for the best interests of the grantor. So, it’s always a good idea to name an alternate, in case your first choice refuses or is unable to accept the responsibility.”
And those responsibilities don’t end with financial assets. Should you become incapacitated, yourpower of attorney could take precedence over other documents, such as advanced care directives that you may have on file with your healthcare provider.
“If you do have an advanced care directive, it should be consistent with the terms contained within a power of attorney,” Covelli says. “If it conflicts with a previously advanced care directive, the power of attorney may prevail. And the power of attorney may extend beyond end-of-life decisions, which most people think about when they hear the term advanced care directive. It may address decisions related to items like surgery, dialysis, chemotherapy— pretty much everything that can happen to you in a healthcare context.”
In most cases, spouses are usually the first grantor named in a power of attorney, but, as people age, grown children are typically next in line for candidacy. Open and frank discussions should be held with anyone you are considering as a grantee for your power of attorney. The responsibilities can be demanding. There also is a possibility that a power of attorney can be abused if not handled responsibly. People have been known to use the power of attorney to benefit themselves, using access to funds and assets of the grantor as a source of enrichment. This is why you should consider your options well in advance, find someone you trust who will consent to the responsibility should it arise, and consult with an attorney to have documents drawn on your behalf.
For more information on Covelli Law Offices, go to Covellilaw.com , or call 412.653.5000. Covelli Law is located at 357 Regis Avenue (across from the Pleasant Hills-West Mifflin Post Office).