Best & easiest way to remotely sign documents for an elderly person
May 13, 2024 6:21 PM   Subscribe

We are working to help support our mom with finances, managing various agreements, investments, bank accounts, real estate management, and so on. We're remote from her, in a different state. Is there easy to use software that can help when we need her signature on something?

We have three family groups in 3 different states over 1000 miles from each other. Mom has signature authority for pretty much everything and for now there is no reason to do it otherwise. She's perfectly capable of understanding and signing things - just if this process is left to the mail or some other antiquated system things happen way to slowly and get lost.

Sometimes my brother needs Mom to sign something and get it back to him. Sometimes I need mom to sign something and get it back to me. Sometimes all three of us need to sign something and then get it to one or more of us.

When I say "sign things" - it is everything from business agreements or contracts to a signature card for a bank account, a contract with a real estate agent or property manager - all such types of things. Some things need one person's signature, some need 2 or 3 or 4 people's - inevitably in 2, 3, or 4 different states.

Mom is in her late 80s and somewhat conversant with technology. She uses a phone (currently a new iPhone) and a Windows PC. But doing new things with technology is not always easy, especially if it involves several "simple" and "obvious" steps that actually require mind-reading what the software developer wanted you do to.

Of course security is important to a degree but also my observation is that getting through numerous security barriers - password, passcodes, two-factor authentication, etc etc etc tends to make such software nearly impossible for older people to practically navigate. Like if we install an app on her iPhone, and get it ready to use, that's great. Now if she doesn't use it for two months you can't just click and use, you have to re-authorize and re-do the two-factor authentication, and etc etc etc and somewhere in the process that whole thing grinds to a halt and never happens.

Is there simple, reliable software out there that would allow us to navigate these signature and approval processes?

Ideally we could, say, set up something on our end (that part is not a problem - we can scan or convert to PDF or whatever it takes), then text or email her a link or something, she would click on it, the document pops up, she signs with finger or mouse or whatever, clicks OK and the signed doc comes back to us.
posted by flug to Technology (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Docusign does have a personal use account (paid) that I think will do what you want. But at the end of the day it will depend on the person/company who you are turning the paperwork into if they will accept a digital signature from a party or not.
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:37 PM on May 13 [5 favorites]

Best answer: My two thoughts are: (1) fax machine; or (2) power of attorney for one of the kids to be able to sign on mom's behalf, which may be a smart thing to have as mom gets older anyway, so long as there is a trusted person who can be the POA.
posted by Mid at 6:45 PM on May 13 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Your mom's local public library may be able to assist her with things like this if a software solution just isn't simple enough, either through technology help with her phone or by helping her print out, sign and scan a document to you. They will hopefully also be patient, and friendly - sometimes family members are not the best source of helping an older person learn to use technology, just due to the dynamics, but a library worker is trustworthy and neutral.
posted by lizard music at 7:07 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is the time to assign Power of Attorney to someone, since it cannot always be done once someone is incapacitated.
posted by soelo at 7:08 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]

Best answer: We use DocuSign extensively at work, and most of my colleagues just click on the links they get in email to get to the documents to sign. It certainly can handle multiple signers and doesn’t care about location. So if your mom can handle reading email, that might be a good option, especially if you can practice once or twice when someone is visiting her. But it’s not cheap: their personal plan, which allows for 5 “envelopes” per month, is $10/month.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:22 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]

Best answer: DocuSign or DocHub can both do this, but the best way really is for someone to have durable power of attorney. Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t take away her right to make her own decisions, just means the POA can sign on her behalf when she is unable. Whoever has POA can call mom and get her verbal agreement before signing anything, and skip the delay and stress of trying to have her sign.
posted by assenav at 8:49 PM on May 13 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Financial Power of Attorney is the way to go. We've just set this up for my mum here in the UK so that I can keep an eye on her finances after a couple of incidents (scammers, intimidation from tradespeople) that could have been much worse. You can add a tech solution to the mix as well, but you may find that becomes impractical as she gets older.
posted by pipeski at 3:59 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nthing Power of Attorney. Do it while your mom is still healthy. (Also medical POA, living will, last will, etc.) Also be prepared to jump through hoops with various organizations as they review/verify your POA documents.

But seriously, POA now. I can't stress this enough. Seems like your mom has significant financial affairs that need attending to. Do it now. If you wait until she is not capable of signing/understanding things, everything will be much, much more challenging.
posted by gnutron at 6:14 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Until you get a POA, what is stopping you from signing on her behalf, with her permission? In the very unlikely case that the bank/property manager/etc. contacts her to confirm it was her signature, she can just say it was. (Yes, this is not legal, but neither is jaywalking.) Lawyers, please let us know how this could go wrong, and your estimate of the chances of that happening.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:27 AM on May 14

Best answer: "how this could go wrong..." - signing someone else's ballot when voting is a crime and could land you in hot water. There are electronic signature programs that verify EVERY signature, at least in the US.

You might find that a lot of your issues are resolved if one of you becomes a co-signer on her bank account. You would need to walk into a bank together to get the signature card updated, but then it is done forever. Saved me a lot of time as my mom's health declined. Also less scary than a POA, which may feel to her like a serious loss of control.
posted by eleslie at 6:53 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You do need someone to have POA in the long run, and you should start that process sooner rather than later if it’s not already in place.

But for signing in the current situation, it is fairly easy to use an ipad and an Apple Pencil to sign PDFs though I suspect someone would have to walk her through this the first few times. You can also just use the pencil to literally sign the PDF, rather than going through the steps in the link above to save the signature.

As a group you’d have to decide how comfortable you are with various ways of getting docs to and from her. If the rest of you are on Apple devices you could “share” the file, or use iMessage, both of which I (not a tech expert) think are reasonably secure. Maybe others have better info or other suggestions on this.

Looks like you can also add signatures on an iphone though I have never done this. (I do it on my ipad fairly often)
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 6:59 AM on May 14

Best answer: "how this could go wrong"

(No one is talking about ballots - c'mon now)

The legality of one person simply signing another person's name with her consent varies from state to state. In some states this is legal if the person with the pen is in her presence, which won't help. And if she is signing something in her state to send to a child in another state for use in a third state, who knows what will happen? It sounds like there are possibly several states involved.

Some forms that require a signature have criminal penalties for not doing it properly.

Agree - using several DPOAs is the best answer. Every state recognizes these forms. The key is for anyone using one to notify the others.
posted by yclipse at 4:35 AM on May 15

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