/ Health, Money

Banks make being a power of attorney arduous

Elderly person's hand being held

When it comes to helping you take on the affairs of your loved ones, banks need to get their acts together. Since, at the moment, they’re making it far too laborious to be someone’s power of attorney.

Three hundred and seventy five pounds. That’s how much it has cost the banks so far for the appalling way they’ve treated me over the last year, as I’ve tried to manage someone else’s affairs using a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).

And that doesn’t include the cost (to the banks) of the three complaints I’ve so far had to make to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

While the money goes some way to compensate me for the stress and inconvenience of having to tackle bank staff who don’t know how to deal with an LPA, I would much rather they got their act together and dealt with me properly in the first place. And my experience isn’t isolated.

Attorneys made to jump barriers

Our research shows that even where financial institutions have procedures in place, the advice that staff give out about this is often confused and misleading.

Not only that, but all too often financial institutions put unnecessary restrictions on how an attorney can access an account. In my case, for example, one bank will only let me operate the account as an attorney online or over the phone – not both.

But the bank didn’t make this clear, so when I phoned to make a query, my access to the bank was frozen altogether. For weeks no-one was able to tell me why I couldn’t access the account, and it took an official complaint and several visits to several branches to get it resolved.

Why are attorneys treated unfairly?

With an aging population, more and more of us will be making someone else a Lasting Power of Attorney, so it’s imperative that there are systems and procedures in place that allow them to be used effectively.

Clearly, financial institutions have a responsibility to protect their customers, but there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be compatible with also treating their attorneys fairly.

Comments
Guest
andy h says:
5 May 2013

I think you should report your sister to the OPG for failing to fulfil her legal duties as an attorney. Under an LPA and the Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice, attorneys have a duty to act in the best interests of the Donor and from what you say that she hasn’t done that. My solicitor told me the OPG and the Court of Protection are there to protect the Donor’s interests, not the attorneys, so make sure you emphasise that she is failing in her duties to your mother and that you therefore believe it would be in your mother’s best interests that she should be suspended or disqualified as an attorney. Don’t complain about how difficult and unpleasant she’s made things for you personally – they won’t be interested. Say only that she’s made it impossible for you to fulfil your own LPA duties to your mother. The worst that can happen is that they will tell you to put up with things as they are. You’ll be no worse off than you are now But your sister won’t be suspended just on your say-so. They’ll probably refer the matter to the Court of Protection who will want her version of events, so expect a load of poisonous lies, the same as I’ve had for the past 2 years.
I’m so fed up of my brother’s troublemaking, I’m in the process of asking the Court of Protection to revoke Mum’s PoA and appoint a Deputy to run her affairs. There are fees involved, but they’d come out of Mum’s funds. My solicitor has no idea how the court will react as she has never been involved in a case like this and I expect the process will take months.
Alternatively, it might be worth your while writing to the COP direct asking them what the procedure is for reporting an attorney for failing in her duties. That might be the quicker route for you. Be prepared to complete a COP24 Witness Statement and to send as much supporting documentary evidence as you can get your hands on. If you get that far, don’t forget to report that your sister is running a joint account with your mother’s money – under the MCA Code attorneys are required to keep their money seperate from the donor’s.
In the short term, try opening a PoA account with another bank in your mother’s name, using the LPA as your authority. Then at least you can transfer the PO money in and start paying her bills out of that. If you can demonstrate that you had no choice but to pay some of your mum’s money into your own account but that you have taken steps to open a seperate account, it will be harder for the OPG or the COP to criticise you.
This is all draining, demoralising and time-consuming, especially as we all have a living to earn and a life to live. Several times I’ve felt like chucking in the towel, but I couldn’t do that and from what you say, you can’t either. Keep going! It will all come right if you’re determined enough.

Guest
Troy says:
5 May 2013

Actually, Andy, she isn’t an attorney, I’m the sole attorney. Sorry if I misled you there.

I applied because she no longer wanted anything to do with Mum’s affairs and stopped paying her care home bills and utility bills back in November, stating Mum had run out of money. That wasn’t true, but Mum’s pension was building up in her post office card account and not much was going into her bank accounts, therefore she wasn’t generating much interest. There was, however, enough to cover an overdue care home bill and a phone bill in one of her accounts so I had to drive up to Liverpool on a weekday taking time off work so I could take her to the bank to get the payment settled.

Plus, because I was led to understand that my sister was only a 3rd party signatory, I’d read somewhere that banks can freeze accounts if they think too much is being withdrawn by signatories. I had to do something, and financial LPA was the only thing Mum would let me have (medical, no, she denies she’s ill!)

I did think about trying to open a new bank account in Mum’s name and will ask my own bank if this could be done. Then as you say I can put her pension funds in there instead.

As for reporting my sister to OPG I’m wondering if I could still do that even if she isn’t an attorney if she stops me from accessing Mum’s accounts. I could cite her from preventing me from discharging my duty, only hopefully it won’t come to that. I’m hoping she’ll just sign it and send it back because, as my husband points out, she’ll do anything to duck out of it and he thinks I’m worrying unduly early. He’s probably right, but still I can’t help it…

Guest
Troy says:
5 May 2013

Just found this on the Alzheimer’s Society forum which may answer my question with regard to her pension, if the rule still applies, the thread is a couple of years old…

http://forum.alzheimers.org.uk/showthread.php?30453-Appointee-opening-an-account-in-my-mums-name/page2

so with any luck there should be no objections about her pension, anyway. The links are useful to have as ammo in case there are any queries.

Guest
andy h says:
5 May 2013

If she’s not an attorney, I don’t know what the situation is with the OPG or the COP. I wouldn’t have thought they’d be happy about a non-attorney having any control over her finacial affairs. Maybe the best thing would be to write to both bodies and ask, though they might not give you a definitive answer. They’ll give you advice on procedural matters but they won’t give you an answer on legal questions, just tell you to consult a solicitor who, unless they specialise in family law and have experience with PoA matters and with dealing with the OPG/COP, will know less than you do. They won’t admit that unless you ask some searching questions, which you’re entitled to do. Don’t be intimidated by lawyers. You’re paying their fat fees. If they’re evasive, go elsewhere.

Guest
Troy says:
6 May 2013

You could be right, Andy. It’s a minefield, isn’t it? 🙁

Yesterday I wrote a shed load of letters to the pensions people and to the council about Mum and do you know what, I feel so much better for it! I would advise anyone not to bother with customer services helplines and muppets at the other end of the phone who are clueless, just put it in a letter! It’s great Off-Your-Chest therapy! 🙂

Guest
carol says:
12 March 2014

When my father had to go into a home I had retained a solicitor who gave my father a General Power of Attorney to use while his LPA was being registered (and that’s another story). I then found my father had some Barclays Bank ISAs but no account with the bank which I found strange. Anyway, one day I took my father into Barclays Bank where he was now living in Hornchurch, Essex, armed with General Power of Attorney, my father, his ISA’s, his one month expired driving license which had his photo on it (he was also with me). I asked if it were possible to open a bank account in his name so that we could deal with the ISAs he had. They asked for the Power of Attorney (even though my father is of sound mind and could answer their questions) and so I gave them the General Power of Attorney which they refused! They refused on the basis it was not in their system of acceptable documentation. So I produced the one month expired driving license, a bus pass with photograph, his national health card and they still would not open an account in my father’s name! My father and I sat there dumbfounded by the lack of knowledge of the staff member employed, the ridiculousness of the fact that even with all this identification my father had become a “nobody” because his driving license was one month expired. When I called our solicitor to tell him what had happened he apologized and stated that he, along with the law society, are trying to get the banks and other organizations to accept the General Power of Attorney when registering for bank accounts, etc. What a shambolic situation the UK has caused with this legal wrangling and heart ache for those of us who are attorneys and who have been directed to take care of our aging parent’s monetary issues.

Guest
Dick says:
14 March 2014

Carol
don’t waste your time, energy and frustration with the groundlings. Email or write briefly to Barclays CEO Antony Jenkins explaining the problem briefly and asking for his help to get you the proper attention. Do the same with Santander Ms Ana Botín. Works a treat.
You can find their email addresses easily via Google. (other search engines are also available 🙂 )

Guest
carol says:
14 March 2014

Thank you for this advice. I will write as I had another conversation with Barclays Bank today, first with their main offices where I explained my issues with them and asked for their help. They told me I had to do everything through the branch where the account is held and gave me the branch telephone number which I rang and rang for 40 minutes. I finally went back to the main office and explained I had been given the branch number and when this person asked me the number and I repeated it back to him he told me the previous operator had given me the wrong number! I was calling from USA so this is very frustrating. When I reached the bank I explained I had a power of attorney registered but because they had not seen me in their branch (I had been into the office where my father lived originally) they would NOT even open their computer and look up the reference number of the power of attorney or my certificate lodging it with them. They told me I have to go into the office. This situation just gets more ridiculous! I will not be writing directly to those people you have been kind enough to let me know about.