What is a POA and Why it’s Essential You Have One

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By Alan D. Feller, Esq.   

How many things have you screwed up in your life? Too many to count?

In my spare time, I have created categories to help you organize your screwups. There are daily screwups – daydreaming while a traffic light turns green and squirting balsamic vinegar on your new white sweater. There are annual screw-ups, such as putting off painting the closet door and not cutting down the giant 80-year-old dead tree precariously hovering over your roof.

The last category can be easily guessed: lifetime screwups. What does that list look like? Turning down Warren Buffet’s request to have you invest in Berkshire Hathaway in 1967 or skipping the last Beatles concert in 1966, thinking you will catch them again on their next tour.

Not having a power of attorney could be one of the bigger screwups.

Powers of attorney (POAs) are documents that appoint an authorized representative, or agent, to handle your financial affairs if you are incapable or unable to do so. New York State has a statutory POA form that designates an agent to handle a variety of financial tasks such as paying bills, obtaining financial records and changing beneficiaries.

POAs come in handy if you are buying a home but cannot attend the closing. POAs also allow agents to transfer property and resources to qualify for Medicaid. The IRS has its own power of attorney form and so do most financial institutions.

In June 2021, an updated New York State Power of Attorney form was released, which was designed to simplify the execution and acceptance of the document. For years, banks would routinely deny New York Power of Attorney forms and insist that their customers utilize their own bank POA forms. This was a terrible idea because a customer may have lost capacity and was unable to execute a new POA form.

The whole point of having a validly executed New York POA form was nullified by the banks’ arbitrary policies. The new POA law from 2021 corrects that injustice by holding banks accountable for their failure to accept a valid New York Power of Attorney form.

For aging adults, accident victims and severely ill individuals who are incapable of handling their financial affairs, POAs are vital to handle day-to-day money matters. POAs are used to move assets to qualify for Medicaid as well as create trusts for asset and income protection.

Without a POA, family members of compromised adults would have to petition for an Article 81 Guardianship in New York. Article 81 court proceedings can be expensive, time consuming and laborious. They are often contentious if siblings disagree. Article 81 reporting and accounting requirements are also substantial.

Not having a POA directly leads to delays in handling financial affairs and unnecessary long-term care expenditures because Medicaid cannot be obtained in a timely manner. Long-term care costs can be many thousands of dollars with nursing home bills routinely costing $16,000 per month. 

Simply creating and executing a POA could save thousands of dollars, avoid a major court expense and provide fundamental financial stability for a family dealing with a healthcare crisis.

Missing out on the Beatles was pretty bad, but not having a power of attorney will have your loved ones calling the elder care attorney and asking for help.

Alan D. Feller, Esq. is managing partner of The Feller Group, a law firm dedicated to the practice of elder law and estate planning, located at 625 Route 6 in Mahopac. He can be reached at

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