Navigating Power of Attorney in the Digital Age Navigating Power of Attorney in the Digital Age

Navigating Power of Attorney in the Digital Age

Online document signing has helped to make power of attorney proceedings a lot simpler. Now, anybody wishing to create one can simply download a power of attorney form PDF and instantly start putting it together. However, there are security risks you must take into account before you begin compiling these documents.

The Need for Accessible Online Documents

The digital age has the potential to make once-impenetrable topics easier for everyone to understand. This includes power of attorney documents, which give somebody you trust explicit permission to make life-altering (typically medical or financial) choices on your behalf. It’s possible to create and complete these documents entirely online, saving you a lot of time.

There are a wide range of online templates available for people in need of legally-binding power of attorney documents. This also lets you guarantee you pick the format that works best for your situation, alongside your state’s POA laws. However, in many situations, it still helps to have an experienced lawyer guide you through the fine print.

Once you sign the document, you can keep it on a cloud server and make copies to give to your agent(s). This gives you peace of mind about the form’s safety — you won’t have to worry about anything physically happening to the document. Online power of attorney templates are free and readily available to anyone who is eligible.

Accounting for Digital Assets

Power of attorney forms often give agents limited or full control over the principal’s assets. Your documents need to reflect the modern age and how the broad definition of ‘assets’ has changed over time. For example, make it clear if your agent can access your PayPal and cryptocurrency accounts.

You might even need to make lists of your usernames and passwords if you keep any important data on an online profile. This should also have the answers to any security questions on these platforms. When your power of attorney takes effect, the list would be available to your agent.

The laws surrounding digital assets and power of attorney are still in their infancy. This will likely change over the next few years, but you must still include them in your POA documents today. If you neglect to do this, your agent might be unable to access them.

Are E-Signatures Legally Binding?

The ESIGN Act of 2000 gave electronic signatures the same power as handwritten ones during a transaction. This includes basic typed signatures, though it’s usually better to add a Certificate Authority or PKI (public key infrastructure) certificate. These serve as further assurances that an e-signature is valid, but you’ll likely still need two witnesses and remote notarization.

As with a physical signature, your witnesses will have to be present while you create the e-signature. However, they can possibly do this over a video feed. Most video call platforms allow you to share a device’s screen with other participants to achieve this. Make sure your state allows remote witnesses, as this is still a controversial topic.

As a healthcare POA generally does not include a transaction, you’ll likely be unable to sign this using an e-signature. States that follow the Uniform Power of Attorney Act might provide more flexibility in this regard, though it may depend on the document’s specific phrasing. Consult with a lawyer before you sign the form electronically, just to be safe.

The Risks of a Digital Power of Attorney

Conducting your power of attorney business online does carry some risks, however. While cloud storage is generally a reliable way to store these virtual documents, cyber-attacks and security breaches could still compromise them. An encrypted server on a reputable and secure platform is the best course of action. Only send the link to your POA documents to people you trust.

Backup failures could corrupt the data for your power of attorney document, leaving it void if you don’t have another copy. Check the file regularly, and make sure that it remains compatible with any software you use to read it. If nobody notices an issue with the form until they have to use it, this can massively complicate its overall execution.

There is also the possibility of a principal or agent not fully understanding how a digital power of attorney works. Online services and templates aim to make this as simple as possible, but some people will struggle to keep pace with an online approach. All parties must fully understand how to operate a digital power of attorney before signing.

Conclusion and Recommendations

You must approach power of attorney with caution, whether you’re an agent or principal. So long as you select the template for your situation, however, it should be relatively easy to follow. Any service that offers these online forms will be happy to help if you have any questions.