A Durable Power of Attorney is a formal written document whereby an individual (called a “principal”) can designate a family member or some other trusted person (called an “agent” or “attorney-in-fact”) to have the power to act on his or her behalf. Through this document, the principal can share with the agent almost every power the principal has, including the power to enter into contracts, issue checks, endorse checks, pay bills and make decisions as to medical care in the principal’s name. The Durable Power of Attorney is written specifically for each principal according to what powers they wish to convey to the agent. A Durable Power of Attorney can be general, giving the agent broad powers to act on the principal’s behalf. The Durable Power of Attorney can be a valuable tool for the management of an individual’s assets and affairs.
The Durable Power of Attorney differs from other forms of Power of Attorney in that it does not become void should the principal become incompetent. This feature of the Durable Power of Attorney makes it especially valuable today with the increase in instances of organic disease, senile dementia, and Alzheimer’s Disease. Having a Durable Power of Attorney avoids the need for the Orphan’s Court to appoint a guardian for the incompetent, which is extremely costly and time consuming. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the court will appoint a loved one or close relative as the incompetent’s agent-in-fact. More likely, the court would appoint a local attorney to act in that capacity.