An attorney-in-fact is someone you appoint to make decisions on your behalf, either immediately or at a point when you are unable to make your own decisions. The attorney-in-fact is appointed through a legal document typically entitled a “Power of Attorney.” This document can be broad or limited and can include both financial authority and health care authority.
The person you appoint as attorney-in-fact (also often referred to also as Power of Attorney) has many important responsibilities. It is the Power of Attorney’s job to be sure all of your wishes are carried out, according to your directives. To that end, the Power of Attorney must have the authority necessary to successfully manage your affairs. Generally, fairly broad terms are preferred so that the Power of Attorney has all the authority necessary to handle all affairs.
Historically, the Power of Attorney could successfully complete the job with access to your files and records, both those you store at home and documents stored in other places. Basically, it used to be an exercise where your power of attorney uses your paper files to do the Power of Attorney’s job.
Enter the digital age of today. It’s not so much paper any more. Often your critical information is stored in digital files on your own computer, at your bank, credit card providers, medical records at hospitals and doctors’ offices, and even on your cell phone. It is important that a Power of Attorney has prior knowledge of where everything is stored and in what form. Many people forget about all of these newer methods of storage as sources of key records as they do their estate planning.
More importantly, the Power of Attorney must have authority to access, retrieve, copy, and store your electronic property. Recent legislation passed by the Indiana General Assembly amended the Indiana Power of Attorney statute to add the authority for a Power of Attorney to deal with digital assets. This legislation was effective on July 1 of this year. A copy of the statute can be found here.
Individuals may want to review their documents to ensure their agent has authority to deal with digital assets. Although not a statutory power until recently, the Stinson Law Firm has included this authority in most powers of attorney prepared by our firm since we began business in 2013. If this authority was not specifically included in your Power of Attorney prior to July of this year or you have recently executed Power of Attorney that does not include either specific authority or reference to the newly passed statute, it may be time to update your documents. Everyone should update their plan every 3-5 years anyway to account for changes such as these.
If you need to establish an effective estate plan that is up-to-date with all provisions that best meet your needs – especially in this age of electronic storage – call us. We will sit down with you and listen to all of your interests and concerns to make sure the future is secure for you, your family and loved ones.
Our goal at the Stinson Law Firm is to secure your present and future and leave you with the peace of mind you deserve. Contact us today.
Jeff is Certified as an Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation, a distinction held by only a handful of lawyers in Indiana. For almost 20 years, he has focused on elder law, estate planning, long-term care planning, Medicaid planning, Veterans Affairs benefits planning, special needs planning, guardianships, and estate administration.