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When Should I Grant Power of Attorney?

The question posed in the title of this post is an important one, though many readers might be at a loss as to explain why. Perhaps, like the late comedian Prof. Irwin Corey used to do, we should break the question down into its two parts.

Should you grant power of attorney? Most doctors and attorneys dedicated to diligent estate planning would say yes, unequivocally. Assigning power of attorney is that legal action that hands over the control of your health care and possibly financial decisions to someone else if you become incapacitated for whatever reason.

Obviously, considering that it is your life and well-being that will be affected by such an action, you will want to have confidence that whoever is designated to take on power of attorney responsibilities will be someone you know and trust – rather than someone named by the court.

It is worth noting that while some states require separate paperwork for health care and financial decisions, Pennsylvania law allows you to grant power of attorney for both with a single document. In crafting the grant, you also have the ability to list the specific duties you wish the person to perform.

As for when you should grant powers of attorney, the only determining factor is that it has to occur before it is needed. You must have the capacity to make the decision for the document to be executable.

Very often, powers of attorney are not designated until a person is quite old or terminally ill. But both of those circumstances presume that there will be time to make the decision later. However, no one can predict when they might be left incapable of making decisions for themselves. From that perspective, many would argue that the time to act is now.

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