How Do I Use Father’s Durable Power of Attorney to Access Online Accounts?

 In Durable Powers of Attorney


I have a durable power of attorney for my father who now has dementia. Does that mean I can go online as him to, for instance, manage his account with Social Security, read medical notes, or manage his finances, or do I need to contact each institution with their forms and a copy of the durable power of attorney? (It is meaningless to have a person with dementia sign permission when you already have durable power of attorney, but that is what a lot of the institutions ask for.)


Photo by Nikita Kachanovsky on Unsplash


This is a very interesting question. Your durable power of attorney should give you the right to act in your father’s place on most legal and financial matters. Social Security and medical records are a bit of an anomaly. Powers of attorney are authorized under state law and thus do not apply to Social Security, which is a federal program. Instead, the Social Security Administration requires people acting for others to apply to become representative payees. Medical records are covered by the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, better known as “HIPAA.” This also places the release of medical information under federal law, but some durable powers of attorney and most health care proxies or health care durable powers of attorney include a release that satisfies the HIPAA requirements. So, your father’s durable power of attorney may or may not authorize your access to his medical information.

Things get even more murky when dealing with online access, whether for financial accounts or for social media. Your father’s relationship with these institutions is governed by contract, often those agreements we all sign online without reading. These may restrict your ability to act for your father under a durable power of attorney. Whether or not it is legal for them to limit your access may depend on how the online agreements are written and on state law. Your father may, in fact, be happy that you are denied access to his online dating accounts. With respect to traditional financial accounts, you may have to jump through the hoops of getting off-line access under your durable power of attorney first. After you have established your status under the durable power of attorney, the financial institution will also grant you online access.

All of this said, as a practical matter, it may be much easier to simply pretend online that you are your father. It may not be strictly legal, but it may well be the course of least resistance. As long as you act in your father’s best interest, no one is likely to complain. If you have siblings, make sure they’re on board and there’s complete transparency. Otherwise, people are known to get suspicious even when there’s nothing to hide.


Related posts:

How Do I Use My Mother’s Durable Power of Attorney?

Which States have Laws Requiring Financial Institutions to Accept Durable Powers of Attorney?

Who Can Serve as My Agent If My Children and Family are Estranged?

Showing 2 comments
  • bk

    Here, you say it’s OK to pretend online that I am my demented parent, as long as I am agent under a durable power of attorney, as long as I tell my siblings about it and they agree it’s fine, and as long as I’m conducting transactions that would help her and not harm her. It sounds as if you’re saying that in this situation, it would be OK for the agent to conduct transactions on bank accounts and other financial accounts, without getting permission from the bank, and without getting permission from the demented parent.

    But in your answer to “How Do Lawyers Handle Potential Conflicts of Interest in Family Situations?,” you say the elder law attorney must “make sure that the plan is in line with what your mother wants….The attorney needs to feel comfortable that your mother wants to compensate you and preserve assets for you and your brother.”

    It sounds as if the agent of a durable power of attorney has a lot more freedom to act if he or she does not tell the elder law attorney! Sort of a ‘don’t ask–don’t tell’ policy. Is this accurate?

    • Harry Margolis

      You point out the conflict between following strict rules and finding a practical solution. Where there’s no conflict among family members and all are acting in the best interest of the person with dementia, we often advise clients to find practical solutions, especially when the person with dementia has named an agent to step in on her behalf when necessary. This can save thousands of dollars in legal fees and considerable time. On the other hand, where family members may disagree on the best course of action, it’s important to follow the letter of the law and jump through all hurdles. Otherwise, the agent’s actions may be challenged and he may be seen in a bad light, making it more difficult to defend his actions.

Leave a Comment

Start typing and press Enter to search