On October 12, 1999, Act 39 of 1999 was signed into law, and most of its provisions became effective on December 12, 1999.  On April 12, 2000, new requirements went into effect.  Act 39 and the new provisions mandated the inclusion of notice and acknowledgment requirements and outlined other features of a Pennsylvania power of attorney.  A power of attorney in Pennsylvania must include a notice.  The notice broadly explains the purpose and effect of the power of attorney to the principal.  If the notice is not included, the agent may have difficulty carrying out its duties in the power of attorney.

Another requirement for a Pennsylvania power of attorney is the acknowledgment.  The acknowledgement requires the agent to acknowledge, in writing, that he or she understands the nature of the relationship and affirms that he or she will properly discharge his or her duties.  Absent execution of the acknowledgement, a nominated agent will have no authority to act as such agent.  An agent may execute this acknowledgement at any time.

There are additional execution requirements for a Pennsylvania power of attorney.  The power of attorney must be signed and dated by the principal.

Act 39 changed the terminology from “attorney-in-fact” to “agent.”  An agent acting under a Pennsylvania power of attorney has a fiduciary relationship with the principal.  Certain powers may include the duty to exercise powers in the best interest of the principal, to keep the principal’s funds separate from the agent’s own funds and to exercise reasonable caution and prudence.  Agents are required to keep full and accurate records of his or her actions, receipts and disbursements.  An “agent” is defined as the person designated by a principal in a power of attorney to act on his or her behalf.

Act 39 also clarifies that the Orphans’ Court has jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to an agent acting under a power of attorney.  It is also important to note that for financial matters, the authorization of an agent to act generally terminates with the death of the principal.

A power of attorney executed in another state or jurisdiction and in conformity with the laws of that state or jurisdiction shall be considered valid in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania except to the extent that the power of attorney executed in another state or jurisdiction would allow an agent to make a decision inconsistent with the laws of this Commonwealth.