Westchester County Powers of Attorney Lawyer

A power of attorney is a powerful document that may prove critical to your future financial well-being. The purpose of a power of attorney is to give another person the legal authority to act for you. That person is referred to as your agent or attorney-in-fact. You can use a power of attorney to give your agent broad authority to act on your behalf with respect to all of your financial matters. Alternatively, your power of attorney can be quite limited and give the attorney-in-fact authority to engage in specific financial transactions such as making stock trades. Because a power of attorney is a powerful legal document that can significantly impact your finances it is important for that you give careful thought as to the powers you grant in your power of attorney and who you name as your attorney-in-fact. If you are contemplating executing a power of attorney, first contact an experienced Westchester County Powers of Attorney Lawyer who will explain to you the legal and financial ramifications of granting a power of attorney, and who will ensure that your power of attorney is drafted consistent with the requirements of New York law.

Types of Powers of Attorney

Depending on your long-term goals as well as your immediate needs, there are different types of powers of attorney. Generally speaking, a power of attorney can be general, limited, durable or springing. Furthermore, based on the subject matter of the power of attorney, it can be for finances or for personal matters such as health care. However, in New York a power of attorney that is for health care is referred to as a health care proxy.

General Power of Attorney. With a general power of attorney you give your attorney-in-fact broad authority to act on your behalf. This may mean that you give another person the authority to buy or sell real estate, buy or sell other types of property, buy, sell and manage securities, manage your bank accounts, operate your business, handle claims and litigation, manage your benefits such as your retirement or military benefits, purchase insurance policies for you, and handle tax matters. N.Y. GOB. Law § 5-1501 et seq.

Limited Power of Attorney. In contrast, with a limited power of attorney you give your agent the authority to act for you for only a very limited, specific purpose. You can specify exactly what powers your attorney-in-fact may exercise. For example, you may need to execute a limited power of attorney if you will be out of town and are unable to complete a financial transaction.

Durable Power of Attorney. The main difference between a power of attorney that is durable and one that is not durable is that with a durable power of attorney the person whom you name as your attorney-in-fact retains authority even if you become incapacitated. If a power of attorney is not durable, then it terminates when you become incapacitated. This means that if you have an accident or suffer an illness that causes you to fall into a coma, for example, if you have not executed a durable power of attorney for finances then your financial situation could become severely compromised. In addition, the court may step in and appoint someone as a conservator over your estate. That person would be in charge of your finances until you are no longer incapacitated or until you pass away.

Springing Power of Attorney. A springing power of attorney, also called a conditional power of attorney, is a special type of durable power of attorney that only become active in certain circumstances. The circumstance or "springing" event is commonly when you become disabled or mentally incompetent. In such a case the springing power of attorney is a durable power of attorney that is active even though you are incapacitated.

Health Care Proxy. A health care proxy is a special type of power of attorney that gives another person, known as your health care agent, the authority to make medical decisions for you in the event you are incapacitated and are unable to speak for yourself. Along with a living will a health care proxy is commonly part of an advanced health care directive. Your health care agent will have authority to make decisions about life-sustaining treatment, palliative care, and organ donation. However, you can specify in the health care proxy or in your living will your preferences on these issues.

Executing a Power of Attorney

Under New York law there are certain steps that you must take in order for a power of attorney to be properly executed. The document must be legible. Both you and the person you are nominating to be your attorney-in-fact must sign and date the document. NY GOB LAW § 5-1501B.

Terminating or Changing a Power of Attorney

Depending on the type of power of attorney and its purpose, a power of attorney terminates if you pass away, if you become incapacitated, if you revoke it, on the termination date mentioned in the document, the purpose of the power of attorney is accomplished, or your attorney-in-fact no longer is will or able to fulfill his or her duties as your attorney-in-fact.

Because a power of attorney becomes void once you pass away, it is important to understand that if you want the person named as you agent in your power of attorney to continue to manage your affairs upon your death, then you would need to name that person as the executor of your estate in your will.

As long as you are mentally competent, you can change your power of attorney at any time. In fact, it is a good idea for you to periodically revisit your power of attorney and make sure it still meets your needs. For example, as time passes you may determine that you want to name a different person as your agent.

Consequence of Not Having a Power of Attorney

The consequence of failing to execute a power of attorney can be significant, particularly if you become mentally incapacitated. If you do not have a durable or springing power of attorney naming an attorney-in-fact then you lose control over who will be responsible for your financial affairs if you are unable to handle them. Furthermore, if you do not have a health care proxy and you become incapacitated, then your wishes may be unclear or unknown. In either case there is a good chance that the court will get involved and appoint a conservator to make decisions for you.

Part of estate planning is planning for a time in your life where you are unable to take care of your affairs. A power of attorney is important to ensure the continuity of your everyday affairs when you are incapacitated or unavailable for some other reason. While a power of attorney may seem as if it is a straight forward document, because of the consequences of having a poorly completed power of attorney or one that is not properly executed it is important to work closely with an experienced power of attorney lawyer. The staff at Stephen Bilkis & Associates, PLLC as years of experience representing clients who need estate planning documents such as powers of attorney as well as will, trusts, and advanced health care directives. Contact us at 1.800.NY.NY.LAW (1.800.696.9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your estate plan. We serve individuals throughout the following locations:

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