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My Turn: Uniform power of attorney bill makes aging in New Hampshire easier

For the Monitor
Published: 4/22/2017 12:03:30 AM

With all the rancor in Washington, few celebrate the “power of attorneys” like we might have celebrated getting a permission slip when we were young. But over the past year, a group of some of New Hampshire’s finest attorneys, representatives of the bench, members of the banking community and interested groups such as AARP, Alzheimer’s Association, New Hampshire Public Health Association and others have worked on a law that will make it much easier (gasp!) for one person to legally appoint another to act for them.

We call this a “power of attorney” or POA. Think of a POA as a very fancy permission slip – just more legal, more powerful and with more serious permission.

It’s a bit of a misnomer. It doesn’t empower one to act like an attorney (or with some magic lawyer-like power) but it does make it easier for all Granite Staters – young or old, rich or poor – to manage their affairs in our often busy, stressful and chaotic world by legally giving another person the right (or power) to act for them.

This legislation passed the New Hampshire Senate unanimously on Senate Bill 230 and is now about to be heard by the House of Representatives in its Judiciary Committee, where it is now facing some resistance despite some very smart people writing it, revising it to fit New Hampshire and supporting it. No person or organization opposes this except a few legislators who have not shown their support.

We’re an aging state in an aging nation and we need every good tool and law we can get to make our aging process easier, particularly when most of us have less money to spend on legal matters and less time to spend on anything. This law is one such mechanism and should pass quickly without any partisan divide, and we should demand that it does.

The winners in this are the people. Nobody stands to make any money on it.

Some of New Hampshire’s best legal minds, AARP New Hampshire (with 233,000 members in the state), New Hampshire Banker’s Association, consumer groups and advocates like New Hampshire Legal Assistance worked for many months to take a law that has been adopted by 22 other states and custom fit it to the needs of Granite Staters and our fine state.

And it’s not a law for lawyers. It’s a law for our people. It contains a simple “form” POA that, once passed into law, will make all sorts of transactions easier and more certain to happen. And who doesn’t want easy and predictable in 2017? Anyone with access to a computer can print and sign the “statutory form” (along with its step-by-step instructions for completing) knowing that their business will get done by someone else acting on their behalf.

This law is important for those who are mentally or physically unable to do their own things, the aged or for those who might just need someone to act on their behalf. This law will make life easier and more predictable for our people, our banks and our businesses. In part, because now we’ll have a legal “form” and, in part, because in most other instances that arise we’ll have a very clear law designed to make rights and duties clear.

People will know when and how they can give a POA, how they will be used, and that anyone reading a proper POA will comfortably accept it. In short, this law, the UPOAA gives everyone more certainty and predictability, just as it has in the 22 other states that have widely made it their law and the five others that are contemplating making it so.

Sen. Sharon Carson sponsored this bill and not one group has opposed it. It makes good sense. This law enhances the usefulness and the reach of POAs for the good of all Granite Staters. It protects against “bad actors” and against often arbitrary refusals by banks, brokerage houses and insurance companies to accept valid POAs. It’s not slick, not sexy, but darn good when you need someone to do your bidding as most of us often do.

This is a new law designed to help fix an old problem for an aging state. Please encourage your elected representatives to support this legislation. There is no downside and no cost, but we all stand to lose if this does not become law. Proper permission slips are still good things.

Please contact your legislators on the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee before April 25 and ask them to support this legislation for the good of all of us.

(Todd Fahey is the state director for AARP New Hampshire.)


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