May 10, 2017: New York State Bar Association Urges Legislature to Simplify Complicated Power of Attorney Document

The Power of Attorney form—widely used by New Yorkers to enable someone else to handle their financial and legal affairs when they are unable to—should be revamped by the state Legislature, says the New York State Bar Association. 

“New York State’s current Power of Attorney form is far too complex, expensive and inconvenient, leading to potential pitfalls, which may not become clear until the ill or incapacitated family member needs the help a Power of Attorney provides,” said New York State Bar Association President Claire P. Gutekunst. 

By executing a Power of Attorney, individuals name a trusted person to handle their financial assets and legal issues if they later become incapacitated or unable to be physically present to handle a matter. 

For example, the forms may be used by a 75-year-old man facing declining health; a 30-year-old woman who wants to make sure her bills will be paid if she unexpectedly is hospitalized; and homeowners who cannot attend a house closing, because they are 1,000 miles away.

To inform the public and state legislators, the State Bar Association has prepared a series of videos about the importance of reforming the Power of Attorney (POA) law, which the Legislature revised in 2009 and 2010. As an example of the law’s complexity, attorneys point out that, in some cases, the Power of Attorney documents they prepare exceed the length of the wills they draft for the same clients.

Broadcast, online and print reporters are welcome to use the videos in their coverage of the issue. 

The State Bar Association’s legislative proposal would improve the current law by:

  • Simplifying the current Power of Attorney form;
  • Preventing  banks, investment firms and other third parties from improperly refusing to recognize a consumer’s valid Power of Attorney; and
  • Authorizing use of language in the Power of Attorney form that is substantially the same as the language in the statute, in order to prevent the harsh consequence of the form being invalidated because of a minor, typographical or other harmless error.

“The goal of our legislative proposal is to ease the burden on families at a time when they need simple and effective solutions. Good public policy should ensure that consumers are able to create and use a power of attorney when they need it,” Gutekunst said

The recommendations were developed by the Bar Association’s Working Group on the Power of Attorney, whose report was approved by the House of Delegates in 2016. For more information, see February 29, 2016 press release (www.nysba.org/POA/) and report (www.nysba.org/POAreport). 

The 72,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.

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Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
Director of Media Services
lbang-jensen@nysba.org
518/487-5530