Death is a natural part of life, and most people know it can be helpful to be thoughtful now about what may happen to your assets and property after you are gone, whether through a will, a trust, or another option.

However, estate planning is not limited to what happens after someone passes away. In some situations, a person may continue living but be unable to make decisions for themselves, which the law calls “incapacity.” Without the proper tools and help from a knowledgeable estate planning attorney, this can make it difficult for the incapacitated person’s family and caretakers to proceed how the incapacitated person might wish. A Staten Island power of attorney lawyer may be able to help you create a solution now to avoid this eventuality in the future.

Delegating Authority

In many situations, the best way to plan for incapacity is by executing a power of attorney. N.Y. General Obligations Law § 5-1501 defines a power of attorney as any document in writing where a person, called the “principal,” appoints an agent to act for them.

The power a principal gives an agent through a power of attorney is flexible but usually involves some ability for the agent to make decisions or complete transactions for the principal, including:

  • Entering contracts
  • Signing documents
  • Making decisions related to medical care.
  • Managing the principal’s finances or banking transactions

State law provides that the agent is a fiduciary of the principal, which means the agent is bound to make decisions in accordance with the principal’s wishes to the extent the principal made those known and, in any event, in the principal’s best interests. Power of attorney gives the agent broad authority over the principal’s affairs, so the principal must select an individual they trust will act how they wish. The trust must also be backed up with a properly drafted and executed power of attorney prepared by an experienced Staten Island lawyer.

Options and Flexibility

A power of attorney is a flexible instrument that can be prepared in various ways to meet the principal’s needs best.

A power of attorney can be general, meaning the agent can act for the principal in all matters. It can also be limited, meaning that the principal can carve out specific instances where the principal may act on the principal’s behalf; outside of those, the agent will have no authority. For example, a principal could create a power of attorney allowing an agent to sell the principal’s residence, but nothing else, on their behalf. Once the sale is completed, the power of attorney will terminate, and any actions the agent takes outside of those bounds will not be effective.

A power of attorney can also be executed immediately but not take effect until the occurrence of a specific event, usually when the principal becomes unable to make decisions on their own. Alternatively, a power of attorney can take effect as soon as it is executed and continue after the principal’s incapacity, known as a durable power of attorney. A lawyer in Staten Island could help a principal determine what type of power of attorney is best in their situation and assist in crafting the document to meet the principal’s needs.

Contact an Attorney Experienced in Creating Powers of Attorney in Staten Island Today

Thinking through worst-case scenarios can be difficult and uncomfortable, but it is always better to be prepared than caught unaware. An attorney could help you plan for the future and ensure your wishes for your health, care, and property are honored.

Schedule an initial consultation with a Staten Island power of attorney lawyer to discuss the options that may be right for you.