Important Changes To Pennsylvania’s Power of Attorney Law Could Affect Your Estate Plan

POAEffective January 1, 2015, Pennsylvania has updated its Power of Attorney Act (20 Pa.C.S. §§ 5601 – 5612).* See House Bill 1429 for full changes to power of attorney (POA) laws.

One of the major changes was the execution of POAs.  For example, when you sign your POA, it must be witnessed by two people and notarized. The witnesses cannot be the notary or an agent designated in the POA.  In addition, if you are unable to sign the POA, you must specifically direct another individual to sign the POA and there must be two witnesses and a notary to sign as well. 20 Pa.C.S. §5601(b).

The Notice provisions required in every POA have also been modified. The Notice informs you, as the person signing the POA that you can grant broad authority to your Agent (the person you appoint to make decisions for you) including the ability to give away or change how your property is distributed at your death. The Notice also advises you to seek the advice of an attorney before signing the document to make sure that you understand it. 20 Pa.C.S. §5601(c).

Another modification to the POA Act was the Acknowledgement signed by the Agent.  The Acknowledgment requires your Agent to agree that he or she  will act in the accordance with your reasonable expectations and in your best interest. In addition, it requires your Agent to agree to act in good faith and only in the scope of authority that you have given to him or her.  20 Pa.C.S. §5601(d).

The major change to the POA Act was the grant of authority provisions.  Section 5601.4(a).  This section now requires certain “hot powers” to be expressly granted to your Agent in the document.  For example, if you would like to grant your Agent the authority to create or change rights of survivorship, create or change beneficiary designations, delegate authority granted under the power of attorney or disclaim property, including a power of appointment, you must specifically give that power to your Agent in the POA.  For a full list of all “hot powers,” see Section 5601.4(a).

Your current POA is not necessarily invalid because of this Act.  However, depending on the language outlined in your document, you may be subject to additional scrutiny or your agent may be unable to exercise one or more of the powers identified in your document.  I recommend that you consult with your attorney to determine whether your POA is valid under the current Act.

*A few provisions of the Power of Attorney Act went into effect when the House Bill was signed on July 2, 2014.

For more information on this topic Powers of Attorney, contact a member of our Estates and Trusts Group at (724) 776-8000.
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