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Shared Authority: Principal and Their Agent

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a written document by which an individual (known as the Principal) designates another person, or persons (known as the Agent[s] or Attorney[s]-in-Fact) to make specified financial, health care, mental health care, or other decisions for the individual. It is a legal document, governed by the laws of Pennsylvania. Please note that a POA is a shared authority between the Principal and their Agent(s).

An Agent, or Agents, may be appointed who can act jointly, severally, or in combination as the Principal designates. If no designation is made, and multiple Agents have been appointed, the Agents shall only act jointly. Successor Agents may be appointed to serve in the order named in the POA document. A Principal may also delegate to an original and/or successor Agent the power to appoint successors. A clause regarding the power of substitution allowing the Agent to delegate duties to other professionals to perform certain duties is recommended to be included in all POA’s.

Durable Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney is a power of attorney by which the authority conferred shall be exercisable notwithstanding the Principal’s subsequent disability or incapacity. A Principal may provide in the power of attorney that the power shall only become effective at a specified future time or upon the occurrence of a specified contingency, including the disability or incapacity of the Principal (“Springing POA”). Durable Powers of Attorney survive incapacity, but end at the time of the Principal’s death. Under Pennsylvania law, a POA is durable unless it specifically states otherwise. It may also be a Springing POA if so provided.

In addition to the general POA described above, a Health Care Power of Attorney is a specific document by which an individual (known as the Principal) designates one or more persons (known as the Health Care Agent) to make health care decisions for the individual if they are determined to be incapacitated to make those decisions regardless of whether the individual has an end-stage medical condition or is permanently unconscious. Copies of these documents should be given to the individual’s attending physicians and hospital.

An executed copy of any Power of Attorney should be filed with the Clerk of Orphan’s Court in the county in which the principal resides.

For more information regarding other forms of Substitute Decision Making, please contact us at for an appointment!

Richard Howard

About the author: Rich Howard has been the President of River Communities Fiduciary Services since its inception in 2016.

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