New Power of Attorney Simplifies Complexities, Reduces Need for Property Guardians

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The New York Power of Attorney is a legal instrument executed by an individual with capacity (a principal) appointing another (an agent) to handle his/her financial affairs. The current durable “short form” Power of Attorney is clunky, cumbersome and difficult to execute without legal support. The 2009 and 2010 statutory amendments to the Power of Attorney laws offered little to reduce the complexities and, in fact, imposed additional constraints on execution and modification of the form. Reform has long been needed and the COVID-19 pandemic made the situation more dire.

Last month, Governor Cuomo signed new legislation that greatly simplifies and improves New York state’s power of attorney form, relaxing certain requirements about signatories and language deviations. Among its improvements and clarifications, the amendment allows an authorized representative to sign the document at the principal’s direction when the principal is physically unable to do so; and expands the agent’s access to the principal’s health care and billing records for financial reasons.

As this amendment takes effect in June 2021, health care facilities – especially nursing homes - should become familiar with the new requirements and its “user-friendly” nature. Patients and residents in care facilities often have financial matters that need to be addressed in the community. The Power of Attorney form can be executed with greater ease so that an agent can be appointed to address those unmet financial needs. If executed properly, the principal’s property affairs can be managed during a period of inability or incapacity and should serve to avoid the nursing home’s or family’s need for costly, time consuming guardianship.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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