Why is it Important to Have a Power of Attorney?

The Power of Attorney is an important part of lifetime estate planning. In a Power of Attorney, you appoint one or more persons (known as your “agent”) to act on your behalf for property and financial matters. A Power of Attorney may be limited to a particular action (such as a real estate closing), or it may be general, empowering your agent to act on your behalf in a variety of situations.

The most important reason for having a Power of Attorney is to have someone who can manage your property and financial affairs if you become unable to manage your own affairs due to illness or injury. If you appoint an agent while you are competent, you can choose someone you trust to handle your financial affairs. If you become incapacitated and have not appointed an agent under a valid Power of Attorney, it will be necessary for a Court to appoint a guardian to make financial decisions for you. A guardianship proceeding is costly and you will have little or no control over the selection of the guardian.

Who should you appoint as your agent under a Power of Attorney? Your agent should be someone you trust and whom you believe will manage your financial matters in your best interests. Most people designate their spouse or one or more children as agent. Others may choose a close friend or a lawyer, accountant or other professional. You should also consider appointing an alternate agent to act if the primary agent is unable to act for any reason.

Your agent has a legal duty under New York law to act for your benefit and in your best interests in all transactions performed under the Power of Attorney. You may revoke a Power of Attorney at any time by notifying your agent in writing.

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