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The Power of Attorney (“POA”) is an important document most people should have, particularly seniors.   The POA gives authority to an agent you choose to act on your behalf with regard to the matters and issues specified in the document.  The Power of Attorney form mandated by New York State in 2010 was known as the “Short Form,” although it was anything but short.  Lawyers (and certainly their clients) never liked it, and sought for years to have it changed and simplified.

Finally, these efforts paid off, and Governor Cuomo has signed legislation that will make the new form of POA more user-friendly.

The appropriate scope of authority is key for a POA.  You don’t want to have a situation where your agent cannot take actions that are in your best interest.  These actions might include paying your bills, protecting your assets, or applying for Medicaid on your behalf.

The POA form that has been in effect for the past 10 years is very long and complicated, particularly if you need or want modifications that expand the scope of authority beyond the so-called “standard powers.”  (In the opinion of this firm, the standard powers are much too limited in most cases.)

The new law and the new, simpler form, take effect in June 2021.  Don’t worry if you already have a good POA; you won’t be obligated to sign a new one.

Here are some highlights from the new law:

  • The new form will be a single, shorter document, instead of the “Short Form” and the “Statutory Gifts Rider.”
  • Language that substantially conforms to the prescribed statutory language will be sufficient to make the POA valid.   Insignificant mistakes in wording, formatting, punctuation, and the like, will not affect the validity of the document.  A POA that has been properly signed will have a presumption of validity.
  • A Principal who is physically incapable of signing and initialing the document can have another person do it at his or her direction.
  • Banks and financial institutions that refuse to accept a valid POA will be subject to penalties and paying attorney’s fees.

Although some people are tempted to prepare their own POA’s by copying forms found online or elsewhere, this decision can lead to serious and unfortunate consequences.  A POA with a wide scope of authority is crucial to ensure that any and all steps an agent may need to take are permitted.  The POA is one of many instances where the advice of a qualified attorney and a comprehensive document are key to ensuring that the wishes of the person naming an agent can be carried out.

Lamson & Cutner has put a great deal of time, effort, and thought into the modifications we include and recommend for our clients.  We’ll be happy to advise you on your POA.

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