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Wills, Estate, Power of Attorney

Wills, Estate, Power of Attorney

A will is a legal document which says who will inherit your property and possessions after your death. In the will, you name a person to administer your estate. This person, who is called the “executor”, collects the assets in the estate, pays the estate’s debts and distributes the remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in the will.

A living will (also called an “advance directive”) is a legal document in which you say which kinds of medical treatment you do or do not want in the event that you become terminally ill and are not able to express your wishes. You can also name a person to make medical decisions for you if you are not able to do it yourself. This person is called a “health care proxy”.

A power of attorney is a written legal document which authorizes a person (called an “agent”) to handle certain types of business transactions for the person who signs the power of attorney (who is called the “principal”). The power of attorney document says exactly which kinds of transactions the agent is allowed to perform. A power of attorney is no longer valid and cannot be used after the death of the principal. An agent under a power of attorney does not have the authority to administer the principal’s estate.

It is important to know that in order to execute a will, a living will or a power of attorney, a person must have the mental capacity to understand the terms of the document. If the person does not have this capacity and needs someone to handle their affairs or make decisions for them, they may need a guardian to be appointed.

CLS does not draft wills, living wills or powers of attorneys, and CLS also does not probate estates, but other resources are available:

Drexel Law School holds clinics offering free legal advice and consultation for drafting powers of attorney, wills and living wills. The clinic runs from September-May. To schedule an appointment, call 215-571-4797 and  leave a message. You will be contacted to set up an appointment.

SeniorLAW Center provides free legal assistance in drafting financial and health care powers of attorney, simple wills and living wills for older adults (60 and older) who are low-income residents of Philadelphia.  They also provide these documents through their Enhanced Service Program (ESP), serving seniors 55+ up to 300% of poverty in the 5-county region for an affordable fee.  Call the HelpLine at (215) 988-1242 Monday through Thursday from 10:00–2:00 for more information or sign up for one of their 5 community legal clinics in neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia

The Temple Elderly Law Project provides free legal assistance to Philadelphia residents aged 60 or older in drafting wills and living wills (but not powers of attorney). Call (215) 204-6887 Monday through Friday 9:00-12:00.

Legal Clinic for the Disabled provides free legal advice and representation, including drafting advance planning documents, to people with physical disabilities or who are deaf or hard of hearing. Must have income under 150% of federal poverty level and reside in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Montgomery or Delaware County. Call (215) 587-3350 Monday, Wednesday or Friday from 9:30 – 3:30.

The AIDS Law Project provides free legal services to Pennsylvanians with HIV/AIDS or who have been affected by the epidemic. Services available include drafting wills, living wills and powers of attorney. For intake, call (215) 587-9377 Monday through Friday from 9:30 – 1:00.

CLS’ Aging and Disabilities Unit is supported in part by funding provided by PCA and the Pennsylvania Department of Aging.
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