New York allows three paths for granting another person power of attorney, or authority, over your financial and legal affairs. Each requires that you define how much authority you’re willing to grant and when that authority should begin. To make the process easier, the state has created statutory or model forms with clear instructions regarding how to legally identify your power of attorney.
Power of Attorney Basics
The person granting the power of attorney (POA) is the principal, and the person receiving the power is the agent or attorney-in-fact. When you use a POA to sign over your legal authority in New York, the document must be notarized, but does not have to be filed with the court unless it’s used for a real estate transaction. That specific type of POA must be filed with your county clerk's office.
POAs are often used by individuals who are incapacitated for one reason or another and thus unable to attend to legal affairs, such as opening a bank account or handling property tax transactions. A POA can give very limited power for a short period of time or grant the agent broad power that lasts until the principal becomes mentally incompetent or dies.
Giving someone POA does not mean you can’t attend to your own legal and financial issues. It just gives your agent the right to do so when you aren’t available. You can cancel the POA by informing your agent and your financial institutions in writing that the POA has been revoked. If the POA regards a real estate transaction and was filed with the court, you should file a copy of the revocation form with the court.
Free POA statutory forms are available on the New York Bar Association’s website. If you download forms from another site, be sure the forms were created September 2010 or later, since New York POA laws changed dramatically in 2009 and were amended in 2010. You do not need an attorney to complete the POA, but legal counsel may help you sort through the specifics of what your POA should contain.
New York’s Three POAs
The nondurable POA takes effect immediately and ends when the principal revokes the POA, dies or becomes mentally incompetent. This POA is generally used to give the agent authority for a specific transaction, such as closing on a real estate sale when the principal is visiting friends in Norway.
A durable POA allows the agent to continue acting for the principal even when the principal is incompetent or unable to make decisions on his own. It takes effect immediately and can be canceled only by the principal or upon the principal’s death.
The springing POA takes effect at a future date. It’s often enacted when a principal becomes very ill or disabled. It can be noted in the POA that the principal’s physician will determine if the principal is no longer able to manage her own legal affairs. This type of POA remains in effect until the principal dies or it’s rescinded by a court.
The medical POA in New York is called a “Health Care Proxy.” It grants your health care agent the right to make as many or as few medical decisions as you designate should you become unable to do so. New York defines health care as “any treatment, service or procedure to diagnose or treat your physical or mental condition.” For instance, your health care agent can refuse or permit life-sustaining measures if you should become comatose after surgery. The New York statutory form contains a place for you to include specific instructions regarding your care. The New York State Bar Association has free forms available on its site.