CGA Law News & Blog

Power of Attorney (POA) – The Centerpiece of the Estate Plan

access_time Posted on: April 2nd, 2024

From Attorney Tim Bupp, chair of the CGA Law Firm Estate Law practice group.

In this biweekly column, Attorney Tim Bupp shares with you lessons and perspectives from his twenty-five years as an estate planner with CGA Law Firm.

Everyone has heard of a Last Will and Testament and knows that a Will is an important piece of an estate plan. But is it the most important piece? Let’s discuss the power of attorney – an underappreciated but vital part of an estate plan.

1.        What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a document where you appoint some trusted individual to take any action on your behalf. The idea is that if you become unable to act on my own – if, for example, you break my foot and end up in the hospital, unable to get to your bank, pay your bills, or take care of your affairs on my own – then someone else has the power to do so in your place.  Even more importantly, if your disability should become of a more permanent nature – if you suffer a stroke or if you become incapacitated for an extended period of time – it is essential that someone else have the authority to take action on your behalf.   Without a POA, it might be necessary for someone to go to the court and ask to have you declared incapacitated and in need of a guardian. This can be a long, expensive, and unsatisfactory process. However, if you have had the foresight to create a power of attorney and appoint your own agent, that person can take action on your behalf immediately without the delay and expense of a court proceeding.

2.        What makes a “Durable” POA?

Powers of attorney are creations of state law, and every state has its own rules and its own laws governing POAs. In our Commonwealth, the Pennsylvania Power of Attorney Act is updated frequently, most recently in 2017, to provide new and expanded powers related to changing beneficiary designations and creating trusts – all the better to assure that elder law attorneys can help those faced with nursing home costs make correct decisions. Because of these recent changes, POAs should be updated periodically, certainly if they are more than ten years old. And all POAs should be “durable” – that is, they should specifically provide that they will continue to function for you after you may become incapacitated, since that is when they are most needed.

3.        What else should you look out for with POA?

Like most estate planning tools, a POA is not “one size fits all” – the document’s provisions should be discussed with an experienced estate planning attorney. For example, who is the right person to serve as an agent? If you have multiple children, should you name only one child or two to work together? What if you are lucky enough to have five children (or ten)? Should your agents be named to act together jointly, or should one be named to succeed another if the first cannot act? There is no one right-or-wrong answer to these questions; each one will depend upon your own family and your own needs. A skilled attorney can help you put the right document together and help you avoid the mess that can follow from using a document off the internet, which can often cause more harm than good. Be careful! Make certain this most important estate document will protect you and your family well.

Tim Bupp has practiced for twenty-five years with CGA Law Firm in estate planning, estate administration, and elder law. Tim is an Accredited Estate Planner (AEP) by the American Association of Estate Planning Councils and a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys. He is certified in Estate Planning and Pension Law Planning by the Temple University Beasley School of Law, from which he also holds a Master of Laws degree in Tax Law. He also holds a JD from the Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law, an MBA from York College of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelor of Science degree from Penn State. Tim has chaired the Estate Law Section of CGA Law Firm for ten years, where he is a shareholder.  Reach Tim at [email protected] or 717.848.4900. 

CGA Law Firm Attorney Tim Bupp

Timothy Bupp

Estate Law Chair, Shareholder

Timothy J. Bupp is a Shareholder with CGA Law Firm and chairs the Firm’s Estate Law Section. He provides clients with specialized advice in Estate Planning, Business and tax planning, Real Estate transactions and related matters. Tim assists his clients by utilizing the knowledge he gained from his advanced degrees in business administration, business taxation, and law, as well as his certifications in estate planning and employee benefits taxation.

Read Tim’s Bio Page in full HERE.