Looking back at 2011: new powers of attorney

In Part 1 of our year-end review, we discussed the reemergence of the Illinois estate tax.  Next up are the changes to powers of attorney.

A new version of the Illinois Power of Attorney Act went into effect July 1, 2011.  The law changed the rules and statutory form for the Power of Attorney for Property and the Power of Attorney for Health Care.

No doubt, you are probably thinking, “what happens to the powers of attorney I signed 1 (or 2, 5, 10) years ago?”  Don’t worry.  If you have existing powers of attorney, you are not required to rush out tomorrow and sign new ones.

Of course, if they’re more than a few years old, you may still want to get them updated.  Banks sometimes question outdated powers of attorney (those more than 3 years old).  And if you’re over the age of 55, you’ll definitely want to consider a power of attorney with long-term care and elder law provisions (the statutory form which most people have does not address these issues).

While there are many technical changes to the Power of Attorney for Property, the most noticeable change is the ability to name multiple people to act as your agents simultaneously under a Power of Attorney for Property.  Your panel of agents can then act on your behalf by majority vote if you become incapacitated.

The new Power of Attorney for Health Care also provides broader access by your agents to your health care information if they need to act under the power of attorney.  These changes were made necessary by the HIPAA privacy rules that were published in August, 2002.  If you have a separate HIPAA authorization as part of your estate plan (and you do if we drafted your plan), you may not need to update your Power of Attorney for Health Care.

From a legal standpoint, I would describe the changes as a “solid upgrade”.  Something to be aware of, but not likely creating any need for action on your part—unless you were sorely lacking in the power of attorney department to begin with!

In Part 2, we’ll fill you in on the rest of the changes from 2011 and look ahead at what to expect in 2012.

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