A Power of Attorney is an agreement used to authorize someone to act on your behalf. The person you name in the document is your Agent. In order to sign a Power of Attorney, you must be competent. You have to appreciate what you are signing and the power you are giving to your Agent.   

Your agents can be named in a variety of ways. Usually, your spouse is the primary Agent and one or more of your children are the backup Agent/s. Multiple Agents can be named to work jointly, independently, or in a particular order. Sometimes the Agent is a friend, niece/nephew, or a professional fiduciary, like a trust department at a bank.  

There are usually two types of powers of attorney. A Financial (or durable) Power of Attorney allows a person to manage all of your financial affairs.  Duties can include managing your cash, investments, cars, house, stock, or life insurance policies. Financial Powers of Attorney can be simple with a few basic powers, or complex with a long list of powers.    

You can choose what powers you want and don’t want to give your Agent. If you do not specifically grant a particular power, then your Agent will not have the authority to engage in that action.    

Why do you need a Financial Power of Attorney? Can’t your spouse just sign your name for you? Well, surprisingly, the law restricts the financial decisions another person can make for you, even your spouse.     

Here are some common examples: 

  1. Selling your house.  No one can sign your name for you on your deed without a power of attorney or an order of court.  
  2. Selling stock or cashing out investments like annuities. 
  3. Selling your car. 
  4. Changing beneficiaries on life insurance policies or retirement accounts. 
  5. Gifting your money or property to anyone, including children, even if the gift would protect those assets from nursing home costs.


The powers included in a Power of Attorney represent significant transactions in your life, but none of them can be performed by someone without the authority granted in a Power of Attorney.   

The other type of Power of Attorney is a Healthcare Power of Attorney. This document is intended to allow someone to communicate your medical decisions on your behalf when you are incapacitated. Decisions about where you are going to live, your medical care, the physicians who will treat you, and access to your medical records are all addressed in the Healthcare Power of Attorney.    

Typically included in modern versions of the Healthcare Power of Attorney is an Advanced Directive for Healthcare. Traditionally referred to as a Living Will, the Advanced Directive sets forth your wishes for medical care if you are diagnosed with an end-stage medical condition or are in a permanent state of unconsciousness. You can craft your wishes for medical care at this time to be as specific as you want, including care when you are suffering from advanced dementia.    

Powers of Attorney can be revised throughout your lifetime and remain invaluable tools to assist your family in making decisions for you when you are unable to do so.   

Matthew J. Parker, Esquire is an attorney at the law firm of Marshall, Parker & Weber, LLC with offices in Williamsport, Jersey Shore, and Plains. For more information visit www.paelderlaw.com or call 1-800-401-4552.

Marshall, Parker & Weber is open and available to help you assess what documents you may need or whether your current plan is in good shape. Call us at 800-401-4552 to schedule an appointment. You can also check out our portal for complimentary blog articles, videos and webinars.
We serve individuals and families across Pennsylvania from three convenient office locations.
Phone conferences and home visits are also available.

Share this Article: