We have been discussing Aunt Gertrude and Milly, our principal and attorney-in-fact, and the ways which Milly is limited by the power of attorney document. I earlier made the comment that “The real problem is that no one knows exactly what Milly is doing. And Milly has no oversight.” Actually, Pennsylvania’s statutes (chapter 56 of Pennsylvania Statutes, Title 20) do contain certain provisions which are designed to give some protection to the person appointing an attorney-in-fact.
To begin with, an Agent’s Acknowledgement must be included in each power of attorney document, wherein the agent (another name for the attorney in fact) acknowledges his or her responsibilities and loyalties. The Power of Attorney document also addresses the agent’s ability to give gifts (limited or unlimited). The legislature continues to refine and expand these laws in an attempt to further protect our senior citizens.
The document also requires the formality of signatures which are both witnessed and notarized, granting the power of attorney document its place among other, equally important estate planning documents. The hope is to impress the importance of this transaction and document on both principal and agent/attorney-in-fact.
There are penalties for those who transgress their duties, and it is those penalties which our legislature is presently addressing.
The rise in abuse of power of attorney cases makes it clear that this is an area where we need to be vigilant in the defense of our senior citizens. Our Aunt Gertrudes are depending on us. We are fortunate that here in Pennsylvania there is continued effort to strengthen these laws.
The next time, we’ll address another way in which the power of attorney document, with some very small revisions, can further protect Aunt Gertrude.