Estate Planning 101: What Is a Durable Power of Attorney?

Monday, May 16, 2022


Americans can begin planning the estate process as young as 18 years old, yet only 32% of Americans have a will.

As more Americans are interested in estate planning services, they are considering appointing someone with a durable power of attorney over their estate. This guide aims to help you understand what a durable power of attorney is, how it works, and why you should consider using one in your estate planning.

What is Durable Power of Attorney?

There are different types of powers of attorney. For example, you may grant durable or nondurable powers of attorney. A durable power of attorney is a legal document that lets you appoint someone to make financial and medical decisions if you become incapacitated. It's called "durable" because it remains in effect even if your condition changes. Nondurable powers of attorney are more restrictive.

A durable power of attorney also limits the appointee to specific acts. Check with your estate planning attorney or reference your state laws to understand what those with a durable power of attorney can and cannot do. In Pennsylvania, all powers of attorney are durable unless otherwise specified.

Durable Power of Attorney in Estate Planning

When you start estate planning, consider appointing a loved one with a durable power of attorney. The Durable Power of Attorney form gives one authority to make financial and medical decisions on behalf of another person if they become incapacitated or otherwise unable to make decisions. It is a vital part of estate planning because it ensures that someone you trust will be able to manage your affairs if something happens to you.

If you choose to forgo granting anyone durable power of attorney, there may be unwanted consequences. For example, if you become incapacitated and don't have a durable power of attorney, a court would decide who can handle your finances.

Who Can You Appoint as Your Agent Under Durable Power of Attorney?

Technically, you can name any willing person as your agent under a durable power of attorney. However, there are some considerations to keep in mind.

First, you should select someone willing and able to serve as your agent. That person should also be someone who has a vested interest in carrying out your wishes after you pass away.

Moreover, you should select someone you trust. This may be a relative or a close friend. You may even choose a trusted professional such as an accountant or lawyer.

When to Grant Durable Power of Attorney

The most common situation where a person might need to grant a durable power of attorney is when they have become incapacitated. This can be caused by an accident, illness, or even dementia and Alzheimer's disease. However, if you are already incapacitated, you cannot grant a durable power of attorney.

It's best to make this decision before any changes in your mental or physical faculties occur. Otherwise, the decision may no longer be in your hands.

Estate Planning Services in Southeastern Pennsylvania

It's never too early to start estate planning. A durable power of attorney is just one of many considerations you should make when planning an estate. If you're ready to get a durable power of attorney, learn more about drafting a will, and start estate planning, get in touch with a local attorney today.

Contact Monastra & Grater LLC for a consultation about estate planning in Southeastern Pennsylvania and surrounding areas, including Bucks County, Montgomery County, Chester County, Berks County, and Delaware County.



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