Powers of Attorney
What is a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives one person the ability to represent another person. The representative is called the “agent,” while the person being represented is called the “principal.” The agent’s duties can include signing legal agreements when the principal isn’t present or making medical decisions if the principal is incapacitated.
Why Do I Need A Power of Attorney in NY?
We never know when emergencies are going to happen. That’s why New York, like all 50 states, recognizes Power of Attorney agreements. Much like life insurance or a will, a Power of Attorney is an important part of long-term planning. Your designated agent can be put in charge of handling your money, caring for your children, making medical decisions, or even collecting debts on your behalf. It all depends on what powers you assign to them using a Power of Attorney form. Many states have easy-to-use general forms—New York is one of them. But you can also assign specific powers to your agent using a Special Power of Attorney agreement.
What are the different types of Power of Attorney in New York?
There are 2 main types of Powers of Attorney: General and Medical.
General Power of Attorney
A General Power of Attorney gives your agent control over a wide variety of your affairs. This can mean signing contracts, buying property, and otherwise managing money on your behalf. However, this power expires if you become incapacitated.
Medical Power of Attorney
A MEDICAL Power of Attorney is specifically for making medical decisions you can’t make on your own. For example, if you’re knocked unconscious, your agent has the authority to tell doctors what to do (or not do) based on what your agent knows you would want.
Three Varieties of Power of Attorney Agreements
Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney is an agreement that goes into effect as soon as you sign it. That means your agent can carry out transactions, sign documents, and make decisions in your place—even if you’re still perfectly capable of doing so yourself.
Limited Power of Attorney
A Limited Power of Attorney assigns your agent specific powers that you, the principal, choose. The agent’s powers then expire at a specific time stated in your agreement.
Springing Power of Attorney
A Springing Power of Attorney doesn’t go into effect until you become incapacitated. That means you retain sole control over your finances, medical decisions, and so on—but if you suddenly have a medical emergency and can’t make those decisions yourself, your agent then takes over.
Frequently Asked Questions about
Power of Attorney in New York
A general Power of Attorney is an agreement that works while you’re alive and well—but it becomes invalid if you lose the ability to make decisions. A durable Power of Attorney is a more permanent agreement: it stays in place even if you become incapacitated in some way. That’s why durable Power of Attorney agreements are the best option for older folks who want their affairs in good hands even if they experience a medical emergency or illness.
If you’re the person being represented, you can override your own Power of Attorney agreement at any time. Overriding someone else’s agreement is trickier. If you believe an agent is not acting in their principal’s best interests, the best first step is to go to the principal directly. They can then cancel their own agreement and assign those responsibilities to someone else. But sometimes neither the agent nor the principal wants an agreement terminated. In that case, you will have to challenge the agreement in court. This is best done with a lawyer’s help.
You can revoke your agent’s powers at any time, but it’s best to do it in writing.
Write a revocation that includes the following information:
- Your name and your original agent’s name
- The date your initial agreement was signed
- A statement that you are of sound mind and body
- A statement that you want power of attorney revoked from your agent.
It’s also best to draw up a new Power of Attorney with a new agent to replace the old one. Send all this information to anyone who has a copy of your old agreement, including your old agent. When in doubt, seek advice from a lawyer for help with this process.
Kyle Steller has helped many New Yorkers with their wills, trusts, powers of attorney, health care proxies, and so much more over the years. Contact her today to have her guide you through the creation process for all of these important documents. She's currently booking free appointments with people who live in or near Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Hyde Park, Rhinebeck or anywhere in Ulster, Dutchess and Orange Counties.