Research guides

Pennsylvania Power of Attorney

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is "[a]n instrument granting someone authority to act as agent or attorney-in-fact for the grantor. An ordinary power of attorney is revocable and automatically terminates upon the death or incapacity of the principal." Power of Attorney, Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014).

A durable power of attorney is "[a] power of attorney that remains in effect during the grantor's incompetency. Such instruments commonly allow an agent to make healthcare decisions for a patient who has become incompetent." Power of Attorney, Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014).

The resources listed in this guide are a selection of the secondary materials related to powers of attorney in Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the sources listed were published and/or updated after the enactment of Act 95 of 2014.

It may be beneficial to also look at the resources listed in the Pennsylvania Wills, Trusts, and Estates guide. For where to find guardianship information, see the Guardianship in Pennsylvania guide.

Additional material may be available at Jenkins. Search the Jenkins' catalog for power* of attorney* and limit the location to Pennsylvania for a more detailed list. Visitors to Jenkins may also want to browse the shelves around call number KFP203.

Act 95 of 2014

The Pennsylvania legislature passed Act 95 of 2014 in 2014 (2014, July 2, P.L. 855, No. 95). This act amended Title 20 of the Pennsylvania Statutes and had a major effect on powers of attorney in Pennsylvania. The majority of this act is codified at 20 Pa.C.S. §§ 5601-5612.

Additional statutes related to powers of attorney may be included in other areas of the Pennsylvania Statutes. See the Tables volumes of the print Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes for the correlation table that lists additional statute sections related to this act. Additionally, use the index volumes or conduct a search to find relevant statutes. For where to find Pennsylvania statutes, see the Pennsylvania Statutes guide.

For those looking for materials prior to the enactment of Act 95, search the Jenkins' catalog for Pennsylvania power* of attorney* and limit the results to Closed Stacks.

Advance Healthcare Directives and Living Wills

An advance directive is "[a] document that takes effect upon one's incompetency and designates a surrogate decision-maker for healthcare matters. The Uniform Health-Care Decisions Act (1993) states that the power of attorney for healthcare must be in writing and signed by the principal. Unless otherwise stated, the authority is effective only upon a determination that the principal lacks capacity, and it ceases to be effective once the principal regains his capacity. The agent must make decisions in accordance with the principal's relevant instructions, if there are any, or in the principal's best interests. — Also termed power of attorney for healthcare; healthcare proxy." Advance Directive, Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014).

An advance directive can also be "[a] legal document explaining one's wishes about medical treatment if one becomes incompetent or unable to communicate." Advance Directive, Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014). This is sometimes referred to as a living will: "An instrument, signed with the formalities statutorily required for a will, by which a person directs that his or her life not be artificially prolonged by extraordinary measures when there is no reasonable expectation of recovery from extreme physical or mental disability. Most states have living-will legislation. — Also termed declaration of a desire for a natural death; directive to physicians." Living Will, Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014).

In Pennsylvania, an advance health care directive is "[a] health care power of attorney, living will or a written combination of a health care power of attorney and living will", and a living will is "[a] writing made in accordance with [20 Pa.C.S. Chapter 54] that expresses a principal's wishes and instructions for health care and health care directions when the principal is determined to be incompetent and has an end-stage medical condition or is permanently unconscious." 20 Pa.C.S. § 5422.

Generally, Pennsylvania statutes on health care as they relate to Decedents, Estates and Fiduciaries are found at 20 Pa.C.S. §§ 5421-5488 and Pennsylvania statutes on mental health care as they relate to Decedents, Estates and Fiduciaries are found at 20 Pa.C.S. §§ 5801-5845. Additional health care-related laws may be included in other areas of the Pennsylvania Statutes. Use the index volumes or conduct a search to find relevant statutes. For where to find Pennsylvania statutes, see the Pennsylvania Statutes guide.

Many of the sources in this guide touch on Advance Healthcare Directives in addition to Power of Attorney. For more resources on healthcare directives, search the Jenkins' catalog for healthcare directive* and health care directive*.

Research Tip

An example of a combined living will and health care power of attorney is found at 20 Pa.C.S. 5471.

The Allegheny County Bar Association has a Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney packet that may also be useful.