Planning for Disability: Powers of Attorney and Advance Directives in Pennsylvania

Facing the possibility of disability or incapacity is a challenging but essential aspect of estate planning. In Pennsylvania, having the right legal documents in place can ensure that your wishes are respected and that your affairs are managed appropriately if you become unable to make decisions for yourself. Let’s explore the key components of planning for disability: Powers of Attorney (POA) and Advance Directives.

Powers of Attorney (POA)

 A Power of Attorney is a legal document that authorizes someone else, known as your agent or attorney-in-fact, to make decisions on your behalf. In the context of incapacity planning, a POA can grant your agent the authority to manage your financial affairs, such as paying bills, accessing bank accounts, and making investment decisions.

In Pennsylvania, there are several types of POA to consider:

  • General Power of Attorney: Grants broad powers to your agent to act on your behalf in financial matters.
  • Limited Power of Attorney: Restricts the agent’s authority to specific tasks or transactions.
  • Durable Power of Attorney: Remains effective even if you become incapacitated, providing continuity in managing your affairs.
  • Springing Power of Attorney: Becomes effective only upon the occurrence of a specified event, such as your incapacity.

Choosing the right type of POA depends on your preferences and circumstances. Consulting with an estate planning attorney can help ensure that your POA aligns with your needs and wishes.

Advance Directives

Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to express your healthcare preferences and appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so. In Pennsylvania, two essential advance directives are:

  • Living Will: This document outlines your preferences regarding life-sustaining treatments and end-of-life care. It provides guidance to healthcare providers and loved ones about your wishes in situations where you are unable to communicate.
  • Health Care Power of Attorney (Health Care Proxy): Appoints a trusted individual to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. Your healthcare agent should be someone who understands your values and preferences regarding medical treatment.

By creating advance directives, you can ensure that your healthcare preferences are honored and that decisions about your medical care are made in accordance with your wishes.


Planning for disability requires careful consideration and proactive steps to ensure that your affairs are handled according to your wishes. By establishing Powers of Attorney and Advance Directives in Pennsylvania, you can provide clarity and guidance to your loved ones and ensure that your interests are protected during times of incapacity. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney can help you navigate the process and create a comprehensive plan that meets your needs.