Pennsylvania Court Reaffirms Strict Compliance Standard for Power of Attorney Execution

by: Begley Law Group

by Adam Cohen, Esq.

            Pennsylvania has stringent execution requirements for General Powers of Attorney (those not related to healthcare decision-making). The principal must sign the document in front of two witnesses and a notary. The law also explicitly requires all Power of Attorney documents to have the statutory Notice affixed to it, and signed by the principal; without it, the agent has the duty to prove the validity of the document if questioned. This Notice is essentially a “buyer beware” as to the power of the document being signed. In short, the document, even if properly executed, may be presumed invalid without the required Notice.

            The Pennsylvania Superior Court, in the case of Rega v. Community Health Plan, recently addressed the issue of whether a Power of Attorney could be effective without the signed Notice. An agent who was acting under a Power of Attorney for his elderly mother suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease had his authority questioned because the document lacked the required Notice.  Among other things, the agent tried to remedy the situation by having a Notice executed and affixed after the document was questioned. Nevertheless, the Court reaffirmed prior decisions that absent a proper Notice, and without outside proof of the agent’s authority, third parties can consider the Power of Attorney invalid. While this decision was not precedential, it does highlight that Pennsylvania Courts will continue to require strict adherence to the law when executing Powers of Attorney. This is to protect the principal.