Online Power of Attorney Documents; Buyer Beware!

Some online power of attorney documents may not comply with current Pennsylvania law and therefore may not work when your designated agent tries to use it. If your power of attorney document does not comply with Pennsylvania law, a bank or other financial institution may decline to honor it. If an online power of attorney document is declined by the bank or in a real estate transaction, then a court-supervised guardianship may be necessary. 

Court supervised guardianships are expensive and can be required if the person who signed the bad power of attorney document has diminished capacity or dementia and is not able to knowingly sign a new, properly drafted power of attorney. Guardianships can cost several thousand dollars and take many hours of time to administer. 

We routinely see online POAs rejected by banks and financial companies because aspects of the document do not comply with Pennsylvania law. For example, Pennsylvania law requires a “Notice Page” at the beginning of all Power of Attorney documents signed on or after April 12, 2000 and an “Agent Acknowledgement Page” which is usually affixed at the end of the document. These pages have very specific statutory requirements in Pennsylvania. For example, the Notice Page must be in all capital letters and must have specific language required by Pennsylvania law. Forms downloaded from the internet sometimes have old Notice Page language and this defect can cause it to be rejected by a bank’s legal department. A bad power of attorney is especially problematic when a title company refuses to honor the power of attorney in the middle of a real estate transaction.  

A well-drafted power of attorney will normally avoid the costs of guardianship and can be drafted to grant only the authority you wish to give to your agent. We see the problems with power of attorney forms that were downloaded from the internet and recommend that you have your power of attorney documents prepared by an estate planning lawyer, whether by our firm or another. Doing so can save you and your loved ones time, money, and headaches in the long run. 

Disclaimer: The above article is provided for general informational purposes only. Please do not rely on this article as a substitute for legal advice for your specific situation. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Still unsure, need more direction?

We've been working with people just like you for years to put the right estate planning documents in place. Let us make the process easy, and help you feel confident about your and your family's future.