Wills and Powers of Attorney
A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that allows you to control how your property is distributed or managed after your death. A will is a critical piece in estate planning. Wills devise your property, give the timing and conditions for inheritances, and name an executor or personal representative to manage your remaining affairs after your death. If you have minor children, wills can designate a guardian for your children in the event the other parent predeceases you or dies from the same circumstances.
If you die without a will, state law determines how your property is devised. Therefore, the only way to ensure that your property will go the beneficiaries of your choice is the execute a Last Will and Testament. Because there are requirements for a Last Will and Testament to be valid and binding in Pennsylvania, it is best to seek the advice and assistance of an attorney. If your will is not done properly, the entire document may be invalid and it will be as though you had not left a will.
A Power of Attorney is a legal document by which one person (“Principal”) grants another person or persons (“Agent”) the authority to make decisions on the Principal’s behalf. Unlike a Last Will and Testament, a Power of Attorney document is only valid during the Principal’s lifetime and is null and void upon the Principal’s death. The two most common types of Powers of Attorney are Financial Powers of Attorney and Medical Powers of Attorney.
A Financial Power of Attorney grants your Agent the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf, which may include managing investments, bank accounts, and property, as well as payment of bills. Financial Powers of Attorney give you the ability to limit the amount of control your Agent will have over your finances.
A Medical or Healthcare Power of Attorney is invoked in medical situations when you are alive but are unable to make decisions or to act on your own behalf due to incapacity. While the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability act of 1996, also known as HIPPA, can block spouses and other family members from discussing your medical condition with healthcare personnel, a Medical Power of Attorney will give your Agents access to medical records and information when you are unable to make your own medical decisions.
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