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I was looking at rategenius.com's terms of service and they have a section entitled "Limited Power of Attorney":

For purposes of this Agreement, you hereby appoint us, The Savings Group, Inc. (“Agent”), as your true and lawful agent and attorney-in-fact to communicate on your behalf with the administrator of any ancillary product currently in effect on the vehicle you referenced in your loan application (“Vehicle”) for the following purposes:

  • To communicate with the administrator, including requesting and receiving information by telephone, email, fax, mail, private letter rulings, or general information letters.
  • To request and receive a copy of your contract.
  • To cancel your contract, receive refunds, and direct refunds to the appropriate parties (i.e. lender and or yourself).
  • To fill out and sign any documents required for cancellation and refund disbursements. This limited power of attorney is effective on the date these Terms of Use are agreed to and will continue in effect until you revoke it in writing. If no specific date of expiration is selected, you understand that the administrator may act under this limited power of attorney until the administrator receives written notice of your revocation. Your Agent has the power and authority to do and perform every act necessary and proper in the exercise of any of the powers described above, as fully as you could do personally. This includes the right to request and receive confidential information.

My question is... how legally enforceable is this? Every power of attorney I've ever been a party to had to be notarized.

I mean, I understand that having power of attorney might be necessary for the services they provide but without a notarization it seems to me like it could be just hollow words?

Maybe it's state specific?

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Maybe it's state specific?

To some extent. It is a question of state law, but state law is mostly uniform on the topic.

The main difference between states is that some states, like New York State, have what is called an "equal dignities" rule which requires a power of attorney use to take an action to be executed with the same formalities required for the underlying document or action that is taken with the power of attorney, while other states lack that rule, creating a loophole in the requirement that certain actions be taken with particular formalities.

My question is... how legally enforceable is this?

It is almost surely legally enforceable.

Powers of attorney for property are normally notarized so that they can be recorded along with a notarized deed or mortgage when utilized in a real estate transaction. But the law does not require a power of attorney for property to be notarized.

Basically, if a power of attorney is being used for acts that don't need to be notarized, it isn't legally necessary for the power of attorney to be notarized.

Indeed, one can and often does, in business, orally authorize someone to act as your agent without any writing at all. The statute of frauds, which is what the law that requires certain documents to be in writing, does not, in general, apply to every power of attorney. Moreover, even for documents that are subject to the statute of frauds, few of them have to be notarized.

The most common documents that need to be notarized (or have special legal rules that strongly encourage them to be notarized) are:

  • documents to be recorded in the real estate records;
  • affidavits and verifications of court documents in some court systems (but not in the federal courts or the courts of some states including Colorado and Utah);
  • affidavits to be used in a non-court setting;
  • wills
  • trusts and powers of attorney to be used in real estate transactions; and
  • medical powers of attorney and medical directives.

Historically, notarized contracts, called "contracts under seal" were given special legal treatment, but this rule has been almost completely discarded in U.S. law, generally by statute sometimes during the 20th century in any given jurisdictions, although New Jersey and Wisconsin retain the concept. Consideration didn't have to be proven or pleaded to enforce a contract under seal because it was presumed and other procedural benefits were also available (such as a longer statute of limitations, different rules on how it could be modified or revoked, and limits on the fraud defense in such cases).

Also note that while this is a power of attorney, it isn't a durable power of attorney, which some states might require be notarized to give it effect while you are incapacitated. Unless it stated otherwise, a power of attorney is void upon the incapacity of the principal (it is void upon the agent's discovery of the principal's death no matter what it says).

And, powers of attorney, unless they say otherwise, are also revocable. You could contact someone with whom this company might interact on your behalf and tell them that your power of attorney grant to the company has been revoked.

Medical powers of attorney and medical directives are often signed with the formalities of a will (i.e. a notarization and two witnesses) because those documents can have the practical effect of authorizing someone to terminate your life for specified reasons. States differ on the formalities required for these documents.

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