Our Pennsylvania Legislature changed the law concerning the Power of Attorney (POA) without much fanfare. The rules about accepting or rejecting an agent’s actions (we no longer refer to them as the Attorney-in-Fact) under the authority of the Power of Attorney have changed dramatically. Even some of the basic definitions of words we have used have changed, and some definitions have been completely deleted. If you need to use your power of attorney document, or if you are appointed as the agent on someone’s power of attorney document, you need to be aware of these changes.

Banks are now routinely asking for an “opinion of counsel” concerning the power of attorney document used at the bank…even when the bank was the one who drafted the document. No kidding!

So what is Aunt Gertrude to do? She appointed her niece Milly years ago to assist her, and Milly has been faithfully doing so. Here are a few of the most common questions I am asked.

Q: Does Aunt Gertrude need to update her document?
A: If Aunt Gertrude is mentally capable of consenting to a new POA document, the answer is a resounding yes.

Q: Is Aunt Gertrude’s POA document still good?
A: Technically, yes, it is. But is it “grandfathered” as we are accustomed to hearing? No, it is not. The document is still good, but it is effectively being held to the standards of the new documents. New definitions will be held to the old words in that document. So even though “Good faith” seems harmless enough, “Good faith” has a whole new meaning under the new law. The only client to whom I give the advice to ‘stick with the old document you have for grandma” is the one who’s grandma is no longer sui juris – she is no longer mentally capable of drafting a new Power of Attorney document.

Q: Why the change in the law?
A: There are some mysteries that few people can solve. We are talking about government, right?

Our advice is to execute a new Power of Attorney document. The changes are not subtle, they are seismic. If you live in Pennsylvania, you need to contact a skilled estate planning attorney who can draft a new Power of Attorney document for you. If you are in Central Pennsylvania, please contact us at Mateya Law Firm. We would be happy to assist you.