There are many cases in which granting financial power of attorney to a trusted individual, known in New York as an attorney-in-fact, is helpful. If you become injured or ill or are for any reason unable to handle your finances, your attorney-in-fact has the power to act on your behalf. This individual can, for example pay bills, access bank accounts to make deposits, supervise investments, collect insurance or government benefits, and handle any other money matters on your behalf. Without a document naming your agent, your family will have to go to court to be granted the ability to take charge of your financial affairs.
The person who you name as your attorney-in-fact does not have to be a lawyer. In fact, when choosing a person to act on your behalf, the most important characteristics to look for are trustworthiness, organizational and management skills and good common sense. You have complete control over your durable power of attorney document as long as you are still mentally competent, and may revoke the document at any time.
In New York, you have the ability to specify when you want your financial power of attorney to take effect. You may draft the document so that it goes into effect as soon as you sign it, or you may choose to make your power of attorney take effect only when a doctor has declared that you are incapacitated. Remember, you must specify that you want your financial power of attorney to be “durable” or it will end as soon as you become incapacitated.