An interesting article in this week’s Time Magazine online addresses some of the weaknesses in the Durable Power of Attorney (POA) document—especially as regards the elderly—and how New York State is addressing these weaknesses. If New York’s experience with the beefed-up POA is favorable it is quite possible that other states will adopt similar changes.
Of all the changes made to the laws surrounding the POA, the most major change is the larger role the agent has in the signing of the document. ”Now both the principal and the agent must sign the POA, and each signature must be notarized. ‘This is a big change,’ [says Ronald Fatoullah, an elder-law and estate-planning attorney in New York]. ‘The document specifically states that when you accept the authority to act as agent, you create a special fiduciary relationship with the principal that imposes legal responsibilities until you resign or the power of attorney is terminated.’”
In addition, and of particular help to elderly clients, is a provision giving the principal the right to appoint a monitor to oversee the activities of the agent. Requiring your agent to work under the advice of a trusted financial advisor or the like may add a slight delay to large financial transactions, but it will prevent crooked relatives or elderly aides from taking advantage of the principal.
As the article mentions, “financial abuse is one of the fastest growing areas of elder abuse”, and most of the abuse is perpetrated by people the victims know and trust. Hopefully these changes will help prevent this abuse. If the new POA proves beneficial for New York residents those of us in other parts of the country may find our own Powers of Attorney changing as well.
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