New York’s New Power of Attorney Legislation

On December 15, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed a new bill into law which is designed to simplify the power of attorney form used in the State of New York and make it easier for clients to have the form recognized by institutions.  A power of attorney is an essential estate planning document which usually obviates the need to commence a guardianship proceeding when a family member becomes incapacitated.  It allows the agent to pay bills and otherwise handle the person’s finances.

The new power of attorney form, which will be effective for al power of attorney forms signed on or after June 13, 2021, is intended to simplify the current form.  One aspect of it is that it permits language which is “substantially compliant” with the legislation, rather than requiring it to be exact.  The new law allows any person to sign at the direction of the principal (the person giving the power of attorney), if he/she is physically unable to sign.  It also clarifies the agent’s obligations to keep records and receipts and his/her authority related to financial matters concerning the principal’s health care.

Perhaps most importantly, the legislation permits sanctions against institutions that refuse to accept a valid power of attorney form, hopefully making it less likely such institutions will give clients a hard time when they try to use the form. It also eliminates the “statutory gifts rider” , which was an additional document clients often signed, given instructions regarding gifts, which really just served to complicate matters.   

In summary, it seems that the effect of the new legislation is that it will make it easier for clients who have powers of attorney as part of their estate plan to use the documents with less difficulty.  Be mindful that if one executed a power of attorney form prior to the new legislation going into effect, that power of attorney form is still valid and can be used.