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What Is a Power of Attorney?

What Is a Power of Attorney?

Power of attorney (POA) is a written authorization to act on another's behalf in their financial or business affairs, or with another legal matter. The person who authorizes another to act is called the principal and the one authorized to act is called the agent.

A power of attorney is a very important document. As the "principle," you are giving your agent the authority to spend your money and sell or dispose of your property. However, even when a power of attorney is in effect, you do not lose your authority to act despite the fact that your agent has similar authority.

You give your agent the authority to act on your behalf only after you have signed a power of attorney before a notary public. Once a POA is in effect, you can request information from your agent at any time.

You have the right to revoke or terminate your power of attorney at any time and for any reason as long as you are of sound mind. If you are no longer of sound mind because of something such as Alzheimer's disease or a head injury from a car crash, a court has the authority to remove an agent if he or she acts improperly.

Your agent cannot make health care decisions for you. If you wish for them to make your health care decisions, you can execute a "Health Care Proxy."

The law governing powers of attorneys is covered under the New York General Obligations Law, Article 5, Title 15. A power of attorney can be made to go into effect on a specified date, or it can be created so it goes into effect upon a specific contingency; for example, if the principle becomes mentally incapacitated and therefore incapable of handling their own financial affairs.

Examples of what a power of attorney can authorized the agent to handle:

  • Real estate transactions
  • Insurance transactions
  • Claims and litigation
  • Tax matters
  • Health care billing
  • Business transactions
  • Bond and commodity transactions
  • Personal transactions
  • Transactions having to do with government benefits from civil or military service
  • Retirement benefit transactions

Agents are not allowed to use a principal's assets for their own benefit, nor can they give themselves major gifts unless the principle specifically grants that authority in the POA or in a Statutory Major Gifts Rider attached to the POA. If an agent is found to have violated the law or acted outside the authority granted in their power of attorney, the agent may be found liable under the law for their violation.

To learn more about the New York power of attorney and to find out if you would benefit from drafting such a document, please contact a Long Island estate planning lawyer from The Law Office of Michael J. Brescia, P.C. at (631) 386-8767.

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