Some Measure of Comfort in 2021: Changes to the Power of Attorney Law

By Brandon Vogel

Scott Karson Photo

New changes to the power of attorney law, taking effect in June, will hopefully give New Yorkers some measure of comfort in 2021.

This was a key message delivered by NYSBA President Scott Karson on his most recent WAMC commentary.

“At a time when so much is uncertain, it is gratifying to finally realize our long-sought goal of improving New York’s Power of Attorney law,” said Karson.

What’s changed?

On Dec. 15, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that makes New York’s Power of Attorney more consumer friendly and easier to attain.

One of the most significant changes is that substantial rather than strict compliance will be the standard. In other words, minor mistakes on a Power of Attorney form will no longer render it invalid. In the past, errors, from spelling and punctuation to formatting or inexact wording, were enough to allow the form’s rejection. This will no longer be the case.

Other changes include amendment of the Power of Attorney signing requirements, which will enable someone who is unable to make a mark to have someone else sign; the requiring of two witnesses – one of whom can be a notary – and the expansion of allowable aggregate gifts and family maintenance from $500 to $5,000 a year.

In addition, if the rejection of a Power of Attorney form, by a bank or other entity, is deemed by a court to be unreasonable, then both attorney’s fees and damages may be awarded.

Also, a bank or other institution now has just ten days to honor or reject a Power of Attorney form, and the rejection must be done in writing. The rejection can be appealed, and after receiving a response, the institution in question has just seven days to render a final decision.

This change is necessary because in many cases, individuals who are hospitalized or living in nursing homes are forced to pay late fees because the very institutions that would be receiving payment if they accepted Power of Attorney forms from residents or patients were rejecting them outright. “This is both unfair and unacceptable,” said Karson.

These changes were negotiated not only with the governor’s office and the main sponsors of the Power of Attorney bill – Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein – but also with representatives of the New York Bankers Association.

Karson said, “the bar association is grateful we were able to reach a compromise that works for everyone, but, most importantly, protects some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers.”

Listen to the full commentary here.

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