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Power of attorney in New York: Three things you should know

Estate planning is about more than just passing assets from generation to generation. A balanced estate plan also addresses how your affairs should be handled in the event that you are unable to manage them yourself.

This could happen to anyone at anytime. An accident could leave you unconscious or illness could strike. Regardless of the cause, it is wise to be prepared.

One document that helps to prepare for these scenarios is the power of attorney. Here are three things every New Yorker should know about this document:

  • Definition. First off, it is important to understand exactly what this document is. It is a legal tool that allows you, referred to as the principal, to give another person, referred to as the agent, the power to manage your assets. The agent is required to act in accordance to any instructions you provide and in your best interest. It is important to note that this document deals only with property and assets, not health care decisions. In New York, health care decisions are ruled by a separate document, referred to as a Health Care Proxy.
  • Addition. There is an option to make modifications to the document. You can adjust the level of authority an agent has over your assets. However, a separate document is required if you wish to give the agent the ability to use your assets to make gifts.
  • Revocation. You can revoke the document at any time, as long as you are of "sound mind". Even if the court deems that you are not of sound mind, an agent that is found to act improperly can be removed by the court. In order to terminate this document, it is wise to notify the listed agent and your financial institutions of the revocation.

Crafting this document to meet your needs can be difficult. As a result, it is often wise to seek the counsel of an experienced elder law attorney. This legal professional can advocate for your interests and tailor a plan to meet your needs.

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