/ 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.

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.

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…

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…


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.

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.

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! 🙂

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.

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 🙂 )

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.

carol says:
12 March 2014

My mother employed a solicitor to draw up a LPA for her back in November 2013 which they did. However, due to the fact I live in the USA and my brother in the UK the solicitor had to send me one of the pages of the LPA for me to sign and send back to them so that it could be added to the LPA before sending for registration with the Office of the Legal Guardian. The solicitor could not e-mail this document as her email didn’t extend to the USA so it was delayed in the mail back and forth. Eventually the Office of the Legal Guardian received it on 28th January, 2014 but as my brother nor I had heard anything about receiving this document by March 12, 2014 we rang the Office of the Legal Guardian and they stated that it had not been looked at yet! What! They have had my mother’s money for the registration since 28th January and in 6 weeks nothing had been done! I was told nothing had been done because they had a back log of paperwork. I am furious that we are waiting on this document because we are in the process of selling a home on their behalf to secure funding for the care home! Don’t these people have a duty to ensure they do the work they are paid to do. This, I believe, is a money spinning operation and has become a cash cow using OAP’s hard earned cash to say they are securing protection for them by having all this information on their records thus ensuring their money isn’t stolen by their family. All this government interference is to put money into the coffers of the government and keep more inept and inadequate staff in very nice jobs sitting comfortably doing nothing in my opinion.

carol says:
12 March 2014

Santander Bank is another of these banks which knows or understands how a Power of Attorney works. Their staff at the local branch when given my father’s Power of Attorney to send to their Head Office for registration photocopied it after I had produced my own Passport Details that I was actually one of the attorneys on the Power of Attorney and then proceeded to send the copy to their Head Office minus one page! They also forgot to give me back my passport. The person concerned was so concerned with his own image and showing off in front of me that he distracted everyone from the job at hand. When I realized I did not have my Passport I rang his supervisor who sorted the matter out and mailed me back the book. I also asked her to check on the work done by the staff member and she discovered he had omitted to send the whole document to their Head Office for processing. Santander also would, even though I have the registered Power of Attorney help my father talk to them on the phone when he could not understand the different intonation of the man talking to him because he had an Irish accent. When I told the man on the phone my father was having problems understanding him and asked him to repeat the question to me he refused on the grounds that he would not be speaking to my father! Whilst I totally understand the bank has a duty to protect the money of those who have the account I do not understand why they are so incompetent, cannot make a decision based on what information they already know about the attorney representing the bank account holder and are unwilling to repeat questions when asked to do so. They have become God like in their powers and have an inability to discern for themselves what information and help they could give. As attorneys who are honest, and I am sure there are some who are not, we try to do the best for the person who has given us that power but at every turn we are thwarted by people who do not know what they are doing or thing they do but indeed do not.

I am responding to ‘Carol in the USA’: Carol, you are absolutely right. This is the situation which we endure and object to, and the Office of the Public Guardian has gone from Birmingham and hid itself with the Court Of Protection, which has a bad name for high charges and allowing the milking/removal of funds from the vulnerable.

However, if you think it stops there, please take a deep breath.

Once there is a Lasting Power of Attorney in place for Property and Finance, you will also find that no banks operate to be helpful, if you try to move funds to make the best interest. If you have a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare, you may well find that the hospitals and GPs lose it from the records. In any case, where it is possible professionals forget it, ignore it or attempt to overrule it – as happened to me recently, whilst trying to safeguard two separate people.

A Registered Lasting Power of Attorney is a fully ratified legal document, which comes under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. It was fully in use (in theory) by October 2007. It seems that the Officer of the Public Guardian has made no attempt to ensure that all of those who need to know the legal requirements of that Act and its LPA actually do so. Organisations do not seem to be training any of their employees – even at Board level – to know the impact which a Registered LPA should have. So they all ignore it wherever possible.

Stay angry. You’re going to need that anger. Use it well.

Carol says:
12 March 2014

I am responding to Charlotte Peters Rock. Thank you for responding to my posting. I am not heartened as I go into dealing with my parent’s finances by what you have confirmed to me. I had my run in with Barclays Bank in the town where the bank and issuing solicitor of the power of attorney were in business and when Barclays would not accept the certified copy of the power of attorney I had to fetch the original from the solicitor who was furious with the bank for ignoring the certified copy. Santander also wanted the original to copy which the solicitor took to them the following day! Boy I bet their faces were red when he took a copy of the law on the subject to their branch! Good job too but I doubt it changed anything. I hope I don’t have to be angry over these issues because it doesn’t seem to matter if you are or not they all think they will make an attorney’s life as rough as possible.

I’m having trouble too. At the moment I’m in the process of registering 2 LPAs for property and also for health. For years, my freeloader brother has been taking money from mum. The woman at the bank said, ‘even when you get that LPA your mum can still instruct us to transfer money to your brother and we will do that for her because it’s her money and she can do what she likes with it.’ So even with the LPA I can’t protect mum.