A number of important bills were passed at the end of the legislative session, including some surprisingly common-sense solutions to estate planning and elder abuse problems.
Among a number of new laws recently passed in New York State are several that provide ways for health care workers and bank employees to do a better job of identifying fraud and abuse against the elderly.
The Times Union in Albany NY recently published an article, “New Legislation to Protect New York Seniors from Exploitation and Abuse.” The article notes that in New York State, approximately 260,000, or 1 in every 13 seniors, experienced some form of elder abuse in the previous year. Financial exploitation was found to be the most common form of abuse.
One Assembly bill would require the state Office for the Aging to create guidelines to help health care providers and employees identify abuse and maltreatment of seniors. Another directs the superintendent of the state Department of Financial Services to develop training to help bank employees recognize and report signs of financial exploitation. This bill would protect banks and other financial institutions from state liability, when reporting suspected financial abuse in good faith. The measures ensure that the elderly have additional allies watching out for their financial well-being.
The Assembly also passed a measure that requires banks to notify customers who want to open a joint account, if the bank also offers convenience accounts. Unlike joint accounts, which grant the co-signer the right of survivorship and the assets of the account if the other signer passes away, these convenience accounts allow the other accountholder to make basic transfers or withdrawals which must be in the best interest of the main account holder, as well as simplifying check writing and bill paying. If the holder of a convenience account passes away, the money in the account is part of his or her estate.
The last piece of legislation streamlines the estate planning process by simplifying the power of attorney (POA) form to a single document with more transparent language. This simplifies the process of executing a POA and helps ensure that third parties honor a valid POA. The bill also allows courts to impose sanctions against third parties who unreasonably and unfairly refuse to honor a valid POA form.
The overriding goal of the legislation was to make sure that regulations and protections are in place that keep up with the challenges facing an aging population and encourage society to take a pro-active approach to preventing elder abuse.
Reference: (Albany NY) Times Union (July 7, 2017) “New Legislation to Protect New York Seniors from Exploitation and Abuse”