As you may recall, Powers of Attorney in Pennsylvania were changed beginning on January 1, 2015. I last wrote about some of the changes on October 26, 2014 and wanted to write about some of the provisions. My prior post had talked about the change in the NOTICE that the Principal signs and the changes in the Acknowledgment that the Agent signs. There were also changes in the some of the powers that can be given to the Agent.
An Agent may be given the ability to create or change the right of survivorship on a bank account or on real estate. This power means that the Agent could name a joint owner on your bank account and this person would then inherit the account as the surviving joint owner if you were to pass away. An Agent could be given authority to create or change beneficiary designations on your bank accounts or life insurance, annuities or retirement accounts. The person the Agent names may or may not be the beneficiaries that you would have named yourself.
An Agent may also be given authority to make limited gifts of your property, which means that the amount is limited to the amount of the annual tax exclusion gifts, or $14,000 per person in 2015. On the other hand, an Agent may be given the authority to make unlimited gifts to a spouse or to a special needs trust for the benefit of an adult child with special needs.
When discussing the preparation of Powers of Attorney with your elder law attorney, it is important to talk about all of the powers that you want an Agent to have, including some of these new powers. Powers of Attorney are very helpful in planning but should be done with the advice and assistance of an attorney so that you only give appropriate authority to someone you trust.