You may need a power of attorney for any number of reasons. If you are part of the aging population of the country, you may need one due to an age-related illness. Of course, you don't have to be of retirement age or beyond to suffer from a debilitating illness. In the alternative, you could suffer severe injuries in an accident regardless of your age.
If any of these events occurs, you may not be able to make decisions for yourself, even for a short time. During that time, a power of attorney would allow someone to step in and make health care or financial decisions for you until you are able to do so for yourself again. The problem is that a great deal of misinformation surrounds these critical documents.
Someone may have misinformed you
Well-meaning friends and family may not have the right information when it comes to powers of attorney. Below is some of the most often heard misinformation:
- Myth: There is only one kind of power of attorney. You get to choose what powers your agent receives in the document. You could execute a general power of attorney, which gives your agent the right to handle all of your affairs, or you could execute a limited one, which only gives your agent certain powers. For instance, you may decide that your agent can only pay your bills and put money into your accounts, but not close them or sell your property.
- Myth: Your agent can do whatever he or she wants. Fortunately, this just isn't true. Your agent owes you a fiduciary duty to make decisions that represent your best interests. Anything short of that may constitute a breach of that duty for which you may pursue compensation in a New York court.
- Myth: You don't have to be legally competent to execute a power of attorney. Actually, the opposite is true. You may only sign this and other legal documents if you are competent at the time.
- Myth: A durable power of attorney remains valid even after your death. Powers of attorney terminate upon your death.
- Myth: You can get the forms you need off the internet. Technically, this is true, but not advisable. These documents must meet certain legal criteria. Laws change all of the time, and a random form from the internet may not reflect those changes. It may also not follow New York law. The form may also lack the specificity you want or need.
The above information should provide you with a better understanding of powers of attorney, but may not answer all of your questions.
You may need more information
This article by no means covers all of the intricacies associated with powers of attorney. It may be to your benefit to seek out additional information and assistance with this and other estate-planning documents by making use of legal resources in your area.