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Establishing A Power Of Attorney In New York

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Everyone going through the estate planning process should be giving consideration to the various estate planning documents and tools available.  Then, after educating yourself, you can determine whether those documents and tools are right for you.  While most people will want to work with an experienced Westchester County or Putnam County estate planning attorney to craft a will, not everyone will want or need to establish a trust, for example.  Yet for many residents Westchester and Putnam County, a power of attorney is a useful tool to have.  By having a legally- valid power of attorney in place, you are avoiding problems, saving expenses and averting delays in the event that you become incapacitated and can’t make certain decisions for yourself. A recent change to New York law makes establishing a power of attorney even easier, and one of our estate planning lawyers can help.

What is a Power of Attorney? 

Before you begin thinking about setting up a power of attorney, it is important to know what this legal term entails. A power of attorney is a specific kind of legal document through which a person can delegate legal authority to act on their behalf to another person. The person who creates the power of attorney is known as the “principal,” while the person to whom legal authority is delegated is known as the “agent.”  Sometimes, the agent is called the “attorney-in-fact.” Through a power of attorney document, the agent can make a variety of decisions on behalf of the principal, including financial decisions and property-related decisions.

You should know that there are different types of powers of attorney. In estate planning, when you are considering options in the event that you become incapacitated and cannot make financial or legal decisions for yourself, you will likely be creating what is known as a “durable” power of attorney. This is a type of power of attorney that becomes effective once you sign the document.  Your agent will need to accept your appointment and acknowledge that they are obligated to act at your instruction or in your best interests. Other types of powers of attorney include limited powers of attorney that are used typically for a particular transaction (like selling a house).

Establishing a Power of Attorney Under New York Law 

Back in December 2020, former Governor Mario M. Cuomo signed changes to the New York power of attorney law, and those changes took effect on June 13, 2021. While there are a number of changes to the law, the key thing to know is that the changes have simplified the process of establishing and using a power of attorney, making it easier for you to do so during your estate planning process.  In addition, technical mistakes, which in the past might have dealt a lethal blow to the validity of a power of attorney, may be overlooked as the new law is more forgiving.

One of the major changes involves the “substantial conformity standard.” Under the new law, your power of attorney form can be valid even if it is not identical to the statutory power of attorney form in New York—it must only substantially conform to the state standard. In addition, a principal can now allow a third party to sign a power of attorney on his or her behalf, which can be extremely helpful if you are ill and physically incapacitated (but not mentally incapacitated) and need to establish a power of attorney.

Contact a Westchester County Estate Planning Lawyer 

Do you have questions about estate planning or establishing a power of attorney? Our Westchester County estate planning attorneys can help. Contact Meyer & Spencer, PC today.

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