The Law Offices of Samantha K. Wolfe Clientele,
My name is Noah Hazlett, and I have started my legal internship with Attorney Wolfe this week! I am looking forward to beginning to learn about the many parts of the field of law that this firm has expertise in. Meeting everyone at the office has been a very fun experience for me, as everyone has been so kind and personable. This warm welcome has invigorated my excitement for my summer here and all of the legal experience I will gain!
Law can be somewhat intimidating to those not as knowledgeable in the field as a lawyer due to the large amount of different documents and laws that one may run into. With so much to remember, it is understandable why some without experience in legal affairs are overwhelmed by all there is to it. As such, I believe that I may be able to help you all learn legal concepts relevant to the services provided by The Law Offices of Samantha K. Wolfe as someone who is also learning them for the first time.
This week, I observed a meeting Attorney Wolfe had with clients over the legal matters surrounding an older brother handling the finances of his adult younger brother with special needs. Throughout this meeting, I witnessed numerous important terms being used by the attorneys when discussing this topic. When asking about these terms after the fact, I was taught about the important set of legal documents called Powers of Attorney and the many working parts within it. As such, I thought that this made a great first topic to share with you all:
Powers of Attorney
Putting together legal affairs can become overwhelming under normal circumstances, however they can become even more intimidating whenever you or a loved one is unable to reliably make important decisions due to some uncontrollable factor. Luckily, there is an important tool at your disposal for situations just like this: Powers of Attorney.
The Powers of Attorney is a legally binding document in which it is established that an individual can make important decisions on behalf of another individual. Powers of Attorney can be utilized when an individual is incapacitated, or legally unable to make their own decisions either due to being physically unable to or due to unavailability. There are a plethora of reasons as to why this may be used: severe senility, severe mental illness, a comatose state, travel, or military deployment are all notable examples. In order for incapacity due to medical reasons to be utilized, documentation from a medical expert must be provided.
This document must then be signed by both individuals involved, where the person who gains the ability to make important decisions on behalf of another is called the agent and the person who yields this ability is called the principal. There can be multiple agents for one principal, but any agent selected must care for the principal and will act in their best interests. This is called their fiduciary obligation. Once the Powers of Attorney is signed, the agent is legally permitted to make financial, legal, and medical decisions in the place of the principal. This can be utilized by family and friends to ensure that the principal is properly cared for, despite their condition preventing them from doing so themselves.
At some law firms, including The Law Offices of Samantha K. Wolfe, this Powers of Attorney is broken up into four more specific documents. This is done for a multitude of reasons, with client privacy, document simplicity, and circumstantial need all being relevant causes for these specific documents. Financial Powers of Attorney is a document which pertains specifically to an agent handling the financial affairs of a principal. There are two types of Financial Powers of Attorney documents: durable and springing. A durable Financial Powers of Attorney is prepared before the principal were to lose capacity, where the principal signs the document and the agent acknowledges the document when it is necessary. A springing Financial Powers of Attorney is only effective immediately after the triggering event of incapacity. Both documents require the principal and the agent to sign prior to the document’s use. The Law Offices of Samantha K. Wolfe prefers the use of durable Financial Powers of Attorney documents, as with proper preparation an agent is able to very swiftly handle estate affairs prior to it being claimed by another institution such as a nursing home.
During a health crisis where a principal is physically incapacitated, there are two different documents which can be utilized: a Healthcare Powers of Attorney or a Living Will. A Healthcare Powers of Attorney applies when the principal’s condition of incapacity is known to be temporary, however medical decisions must be made prior to their return to capacity. An example of this would be a principal’s temporary unconsciousness due to anesthesia or a triggering event. A Living Will applies when the principal’s condition of incapacity is known to be terminal, and the principal needs an agent to make medical decisions on their behalf due to the principal being unable to express their wishes. An example of this would be a principal’s comatose state due to a terminal illness. Both of these documents require that a doctor confirms that the principal is unable to express their wishes, and as such requires an agent to make healthcare decisions on their behalf.
In the state of Pennsylvania, an agent is unable to consent to experimental treatments for a principal with either of these documents alone. As such, a specific document must be utilized called a Mental Health Powers of Attorney. Named due to the nature of most current experimental treatments being for degenerative mental disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, this document is unique to this kind of circumstance. Both the principal and the agent are required to sign this document.
All of the previously mentioned kinds of Powers of Attorney documents are recommended by The Law Offices of Samantha K. Wolfe on a case by case basis, with the best option for our clients given their circumstance. For more information on if your particular situation may be resolved through a Powers of Attorney, you can reach out to our office for a free consultation at 717-655-2676 or at https://www.skwlawoffice.com/contact-us.html.
I will be back next week with another letter to share with you all! Have a great week and amazing Father’s Day weekend, and I hope to see your faces in the office soon!
Noah Hazlett, The Intern