Is Your Power of Attorney Valid?

People fall in and out of favor with one another all the time. Families can be complicated and do not always get along. These relationships and their changes often affect your estate planning and to whom you give authority over your affairs. This makes it essential that your estate documents are valid and clear.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently decided a case, known as In re Joseph L. Koepfinger, that places the whole issue of proper estate planning in focus. Mr. Koepfinger was an elderly individual who executed a Power of Attorney (POA) naming his daughter as his agent. The POA gave his daughter the authority to create an irrevocable trust for her father. But the following year, father and daughter were not getting along, and the father told the daughter that he had revoked her POA and he executed a new POA that named her brother as agent. The daughter claimed she did not know her father revoked the POA, and she created an irrevocable trust for her father, placing a substantial amount of his assets in the trust – claiming she wanted to protect them from her father’s new lady friend.

Then, the litigation began.

The Supreme Court ruled that the POA naming the daughter was never valid. Pennsylvania law (20 Pa.C.S. § 5601(b)(3)) required the father’s signature to be notarized. There was no evidence the father signed in the presence of a notary. Because the POA was never valid, the trust the daughter created was void.

This is why it is very important to work with an attorney who understands the requirements for a Power of Attorney to be effective. This applies to all of your estate documents, namely your Will, Living Will, and Healthcare Authorizations. It is much easier to have clear and valid documents and eliminate the possibility of confusion and litigation.

Our office regularly prepares Powers of Attorney, Wills, Living Wills, Healthcare Authorizations, and other testamentary documents. We work with our clients to assure them that the language in their documents is clear and reflects exactly what they want—and that the documents are valid. Plus, we will only charge you once! If you decide to make changes down the road, we will make the changes without charging you. Just click here to send an email or give us a call at (610) 446-3457.