Pennsylvania law sets forth certain requirements for a power of attorney to be valid. Here are some basics:
A power of attorney signed on or after April 12, 2000, must contain a statutory Notice Page, and the required language in the Notice Page was changed by law effective July 1, 2015. The language in the Notice Page is specific and mandated by law to be in all capital letters at the beginning of the power of attorney document. The Notice Page is intended to make the senior aware of certain aspects of the power of attorney including:
- The document grants broad powers to the person you designate to handle your property.
- The person you designate as your agent under the power of attorney has a legal duty to act in your best interest, in good faith, and only within the scope of the authority granted by you in the power of attorney.
- You can grant your agent the ability to make gifts of your property if you choose to do so or even change beneficiary designations if you choose to include such language. The pros and cons of these powers should be discussed in detail with your estate planning attorney.
- A court can take away your agent’s authority to act if he or she is acting improperly.
Agent’s Acknowledgment Page
Pennsylvania Law requires agents to sign and affix an “Acknowledgment” to the power of attorney before acting. An agent has no authority to act until he or she signs this acknowledgment. The language of this acknowledgment page for documents signed on or after July 1, 2015 is specific and sets forth in Pennsylvania law: “I, [Name of Agent] have read the attached power of attorney and am the person identified as the agent for the principal. I hereby acknowledge that when I act as agent: I shall act in accordance with the principal’s reasonable expectations to the extent actually known to me and, otherwise, in the principal’s best interest, act in good faith and act only within the scope of the authority granted to me by the principal in the power of attorney.”
Signed before a Notary Public
In Pennsylvania, a financial power of attorney must be signed before a Notary Public or other person authorized to take acknowledgments. The Notary Public can not be the agent named in the power of attorney.
Signed before Two Witnesses Not Named as Agents
Pennsylvania law requires the power of attorney document to be witnessed by two people, and the witnesses may not be the agents designated in the power of attorney document. These two witnesses are in addition to the Notary Public, and the Notary Public may not be one of the two witnesses. When we prepare power of attorney documents for our clients, we usually have the other lawyers in our office or staff serve as witnesses. We recommend that witnesses sign as neatly as possible, so that their names are legible and that a third party can see that the witness is clearly not the person named in the power of attorney. If a witness’s normal signature is not legible, a best practice is to print the name of the witness under this “stylish” signature.
Our office can review your power of attorney document to determine whether it complies with Pennsylvania law. It is not difficult to go through the above checklist, but it is important to do so. If you are named as an agent in somebody else’s power of attorney, make sure the document is prepared by an estate planning law firm or reviewed by one so you can be certain the document will be usable when needed.
Disclaimer: The above article is provided for general informational purposes only. Please do not rely on this article as a substitute for legal advice for your specific situation.