When planning your estate, one of the most powerful tools at your disposal is a power of attorney.
Bucks County, PA residents can use these documents to appoint another person – referred to here as their “agent” to act on their behalf if they become disabled or incapacitated.
Powers of attorney come in two varieties: financial – which lets the agent handle your finances, including paying bills and cashing checks – and health care, which enables the agent to make medical decisions for you.
These documents are crucial for estate planning, giving confidence that if you become incapacitated or disabled, someone you trust will be able to help you.
Years of handling power of attorney cases in Doylestown and other Bucks County areas has taught us there’s a potential for conflict, bad feelings and mistrust when a parent names just one of their children to be their agent.
If you have named one of your children as your agent, or you have been named as agent instead of one of your siblings, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Parents do not have to tell their children who they have chosen to act as their agent. Also, the agent does not have to share information with other family members. However, if you are your parent’s agent, you should keep your siblings in the loop to prevent family squabbles.
- Agents should not have the right to keep their siblings from seeing their parents, although a health care agent can preclude access to a parent if the agent believes a visit could be harmful to the parent’s health or well-being.
- Parents can revoke a power of attorney as long as they have legal capacity, at any time and for any reason. They should put the revocation in writing and notify the agent.
- If the agent is acting improperly and the parent no longer has capacity, other family members can challenge the agent’s status in court. If a judge rules that the agent is not acting in the parent’s best interests, the court can revoke the power of attorney.
- Parents can name co-agents when they create a power of attorney, although these documents should be worded carefully to avoid problems. You can also choose not to give power of attorney to any of your children and name a professional fiduciary.
- Your power of attorney ends upon your death. At that point, the person named as Executor in your Will is charged with administrating your estate. (This is why it is essential to create a will as well as a power of attorney.)
If you have questions regarding a power of attorney, we can assist you in Doylestown and other areas of Bucks County. We have spent years assisting families like yours in drafting financial and health care powers of attorney to keep you protected in the event of your disability or incapacity.