These days, much of the information related to our finances, banking, mortgages, and even health care has migrated from paper to electronic storage. This has caused problems when ‘appointed agents’ need to act on behalf of another person. ‘Appointed agents’ include: those acting under a Power of Attorney, Health Care Agents, Personal Representatives and Trustees of a trust.
It has not been clear in the past exactly what information those appointed agents had authority to access. Usually, people want their agents to have full access to information, but businesses and health care facilities have been reluctant to provide full information for fear of lawsuits for breach of privacy. This has put many agents in a very difficult position.
Joe has appointed his friend Sue as his Power of Attorney. Now Joe is disabled and is unable to act on his own behalf. Sue needs to pay his bills, manage his accounts, and get his tax returns filed. However, the bank will not allow her access to his online account.
With the prevalence of ‘hacking’ and scams to access electronic information, the banks are right to be cautious and protective of your information. However, an appointed agent often needs access in order to do the job properly.
The Minnesota Legislature recently solved this problem. Recent law changes make it clear that appointed agents need specific authority in order to access electronic and digital information. This means, if you want your agents to have access to your electronic and digital information, you may allow that by providing the proper language in your documents. Note: You may need to update your Will, Trust, Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive and HIPAA Release to specifically allow those acting under the documents to access your information.