/ 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
William says:
2 June 2012

My advice: avoid any bank which has merged in the last ten years. Underlying the problems you are all experiencing are fundamental system problems whereby merged banks’ systems aren’t talking to each other properly – computer systems, HR systems, training systems. This doesn’t just affect PoA accounts – I’ve had non-PoA merged-systems difficulties recently with Santander/AbbeyNat/Alliance+Leicester, and Halifax/BankOfScotland, and RBS/NatWest – but we attorneys are much more vulnerable. HBOS in particular have completely lost the PoA plot in the last 6-12 months. I haven’t tested NorthernRock since the Virgin takeover but will do soon. Also looking at CoventryBS and NationWideBS. I will report back.

Nonogrob says:
4 June 2012

I have just read most of the above comments with growing consternation as I have an EPA, as yet unregistered, for my brother who suffers long term mental health problems and can manage his financial affairs only at the very simplest level.

Sadly, aged 65, he is becoming less capable and I will soon have to deal with some of the banks above mentioned on his behalf and the comments fill me with alarm. This is surely time for Members of Parliament to be alerted to the sometimes quite appalling general standards of behaviour of so much of the financial industry in relating to their customers but all the more so when dealing with non-professional family attorneys who manage financial affairs on behalf of relatives.

A Dobie says:
18 June 2012

Hi, I am trying to help a friend permenently resident in France, in civil partnership, who has become incapacitated mentally and physically and now in need of 24/y care His partner/carer has obtained a mandat de protection futures, having made application to a judge etc. The court has set up up a bank account, monitoried by them, to administer affairs for this couple. They are in dire straits financially and under pressure from french bank/tradesmen and service suppliers. They urgently need to transfer funds from the English bank account of the person who is ill (but not able to speak and sign cheques any longer) to support his care/payment of household bills etc. So far English bank is not helpful. Saying they don’t recognise French legal document that the carer, who is unable to leave, will have to come to the UK etc. We are desperately trying to help them but not getting very far forward. Any ideas?

A difficult one – I would be inclined to talk to your Citizens Advice Bureau. You may need a solicitor as inter-country law, even in the EU, is tricky.

Andy Hamilton says:
24 June 2012

My experience with Lloyd TSB has been abysmal. They have been obstructive and incompetent over a period of years. I did eventually manage to get internet and telephone access to my mother’s account, but only by having several heated arguments over the phone and going into the local branch several times with proof of ID and the PoA form and refusing to leave until it was sorted out. Then they sent her the password (she was then living 4 hours away and in her late 80s, has never used a computer) and absolutely refused to send it to me. After many months of rage and frustration, internet access worked OK for a while, but when there was a problem and I tried to reset the password, they wouldn’t let me do it because, according to them, I’m not registered for telephone banking. Guess what? I’ve got to waste another 2 hours of my life going into the nearest branch again.

I’ve looked into transferring her account to a more competent, co-operative organisation, but haven’t found one. They all put up one insurmountable obstacle or another. It feels like wading through treacle. Her bank balance is £60k, you’d think that might make them get their act together and be a bit helpful. Does anyone know of a bank that can do this without tears?

Hi Andy
(I guess not THE Andy H!)
Try NatWest … see my comment above (29 April). Leaving aside their recent IT problems, I have found them good for PoA

Andy says:
1 July 2012

Thanks 4 that, Dick. Lloyds have 1 more chance to sort it tomorrow, then I’ll try NatWest. Yes, I am THE Andy Hamilton. The one on the TV/radio is an impostor.

It’s been almost two years since we published this Conversation, so we’ve written a new one featuring some of your comments. Come and join the new debate:

Power-less of attorney – banks need to get it right
https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/power-of-attorney-banks-need-to-get-it-right/

Patrick
2 points:
1 it would make a lot of sense if these 2 strands were consolidated. I’m sure its not beyond the skill of your IT gurus to do that
2 Given the level of concern about PoA, shouldn’t this be one of Which?’s campaigns for action?

I’m disappointed not to had the courtesy of a reply comment to this. Is anyone in Which? taking any notice?

I note the advice given here is that inspite of doing all the hard and expensive work of making a Lasting Power of Attorney and then registering it properly, the poor benighted member of the public, not only has to take on full responsibility for someone else’s affairs, but also is expected to complain – ad infinitum – to the bank or building society which is refusing adequate service.

Why is that?

Why isn’t the advice given to the Office of the Public Guardian, that it should get its act together and begin prosecutions of financial institutions which refuse to abide by the law? The OPG takes the money.. so it should also do the job. And no advice column should expect less than this.

What is this column doing to represent the legal requirement on the part of the OPG to its fee payers? What is it doing to collect names and case histories, and make representations to the OPG?

Jo says:
22 July 2012

I first posted a comment on 31 May and was encouraged to make a formal complaint to Chelsea Building Society over the registering of POA for my mother’s savings account. They investigated my complaint and I received their response yesterday. They agreed that they should have registered POA severally, that my mother’s savings account should not be considered an investment, and they should not have insisted that both attorneys be registered. They made an apology, returned my mother’s pass book and a cheque for £100 by way of compensation. So making a complaint does work. Wouldn’t it be nice to hope that these organisations also have the ability to learn, train their staff and prevent the complaints from arising in the first place.

michael goodright says:
15 September 2012

I have a joint LPA with my sister for my father who has dementure and is in a care home. My problem is that when i went to the NATWest bank to register the LPA with them they sent a from to my sister for her acceptance as she is a ‘Third Party’ account holder on all of my fathers accounts. She has declined the signing of the acceptance forms so i cannot get access.

I thought that an LPA was the highest authority you could have over someones financial details and gave you the right to look after someones affairs despite everything.

J J WILLIAMS says:
12 November 2012

Dear Sir/Madam,

I hope you can offer me some guidance on my following queries, I sign a general POA and would like answers to the following

what is the criteria under a power of attorney (General) regarding a re mortgage. If I went to a bank with a POA that gave me the power to do a remortgage and it was accepted by the bank would the bank be obligated, under a duty of care to inform the conveyancer/solicitor that the client of which they are acting for has given a POA to a third party relating to the remortgage? Additionally is it the obligation of the solicitor representing both the bank and client to asks or send any relevant information concerning any mortgage to do with any of the parties concern?
Bank
1. How do banks record a POA?
2. What form does a POA have to be written on?
3. What department would deal with a POA in a bank?
4. What form of ID check would I need to exercise/enforce the POA?
5. Can I walk into a bank with a POA and get it sanction?
6. Under the principles rules can a POA be used without ID?
7. The instruction in a POA does it have to be precise and if so whom would the bank contact to check on content?
8. Under a POA why would the bank not contact me directly.
9. Under a POA why would the bank require the signature on the deeds of the donor when I am the attorney?
10.Under a POA can I involve a third party ie a broker when applying for a remortgage on behalf of the donor?
11. Under a POA would I need a broker when I am remortgaging under the POA.
12. Under a POA why would the bank conform to a broker when I am remortgaging via a solicitor whom in turn is dealing with the mortgage via bank and client?
13. would a mortgage advisor request all id.
14. would a mortgage advisor request the attorney for further proof of that the POA was genuine?
15. would the mortgage advisor write or call the donor to certify that he/she gave a POA to a person?
16. Under a POA would the bank not contact the bank?

I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
Best Regards

Susan Nichols says:
5 December 2012

My sisters arranged an enduring power of attorney for my mother but nobody notified me about it, not the solicitors or my sisters! I found out about 5 years after the fact. My other is 87 now and I don’t like the way they are handling her or her affairs. I want to have a say in what happens to her, they are less caring than I am, I believe. Does anyone have any suggestions

There is also a problem with Wills & Solicitors when a parent is cared for by one family member in another property .I suspect it is often the case the others lose their inheritance. Surely this isn’t right or ethical?

J J WILLIAMS says:
10 December 2012

What is the Law ” if a general POA is in force on a remortgage is it the duty or law for the bank to inform the solicitor dealing with the remortgage that a POA is in force?

What is the law on ID for someone walking into a bank with a POA
What is the law on a bank doing a credit check on the POA i.e the Attorney
Thank You
Jay

I.Robinson says:
9 January 2013

It’s interesting reading all these comments and finding out that everyone else seems to have the same problems as me! I hold LPOAs for my aunt and uncle. Getting them registered with Santander and Halifax was like pulling teeth, but I found Barclays (Chelmsford branch) extremely helpful and it was done on the spot. The problem I have (as I’m sure others have as well) is that after registering a LPOA with a bank or building society, I still have to register it again to open another account. For instance, I have an on-line account for my aunt with Santander that included a bonus for 12 months. The 12 months is up and the interest rate has dropped considerably so I will have to change to an account with a better interest rate. I now have to go to a Santander branch, make an appointment with someone, and start all over again. Why can’t we just register the LPOA once and be done? I suppose the banks and building societies have a good reason for this (money laundering?) but it is so frustrating!

L Alice says:
6 March 2013

I’m very interested, if dismayed, to read the experiences of good folk on this forum as my brother and I are just in the process of registering PoA for my mother. First discussions with Halifax are dissapointing (for example they have no idea how they will issue a bank card to both of us as we have Joint PoA) and we are considering closing her accounts and starting afresh with another banking provider. Has anyone had a better or satisfactory experience with any of the banks or found solutions to these supposedly insurmountable problems?

W-0718 says:
6 March 2013

Agree re Halifax/HBOS: go elsewhere.

HOWEVER I’m afraid that while joint attorneys may be what you and your mother and your brother would like, in the real world of dealing with banks and other bureaucracies, it is *much* easier to have a single attorney “failing whom” the other.

a) That’s usually adequate cover against the common calamity of your mother having an urgent problem and you being out of the country.

b) If the issue is one of trust – that your mother wants you and your brother to act as check and balance on each other – then to be honest, any mistrust is going to come out into the open and cause real problems right at the most stressful of times when action is urgently required and you all really need to get along with each other. In that situation being Joint Attorneys is a liability not an asset.

c) The other issue is one of perceived favouritism if your mother makes one attorney and the other “deputy”. Well, someone – maybe both you and your brother – would need to explain politely but firmly that this is he way the world is, and you’re both happy with their being no favouritism perceived.

Just my £0.02 🙂

W

L Alice says:
6 March 2013

Appreciate comments from W-0718 which make a lot of sense. We really don’t have a trust issue thankfully, I just think that the PoA was set up many years ago and this is how parents were advised to do it. Maybe we can investigate the possibility of getting Mum to amend the PoA to “Jointly and Severally”whilst she is still able to do so.
I also think any notion of favouritism is negated by the huge responsibility and workload of taking on the role.

My sister and I had joint (old-style) PoA for my mother. We used NatWest to set up an account for her affairs. It was v simple – done in the branch. Its a little while ago now but I think we boh had bank cards. However they needed to have one of us as the main contact address (eg for statements and other correspondence)

W-0718 says:
6 March 2013

Not “Jointly and Severally”. The wording on mine (albeit under Scots Law) is “I … appoint my son … whom failing in the event of my said son predeceasing me or in the event of him becoming unable to manage my affairs or if he no longer wishes to act as my Attorney hereunder, I appoint my daughter …”

My point is that the systems and rules of banks (and others) are set up to deal with individuals. To be fair, mostly this isn’t their fault – identification is so much more of an issue than it was even ten years ago, for money laundering, for terrorism, and more. Internet banking and even phone banking, and cards, are often simply not available where two people are trying to act as one. Now maybe all your mother’s accounts are with local institutions and you have the time to visit and the patience to deal with staff … 🙂

Hope this helps.

W

L Alice says:
11 March 2013

Thanks to previous commentor “Dick” we paid a visit to our local NatWest branch and amazingly, they do not envisage a problem setting up a joint PoA on a new account for my mother with 2 bank cards etc. It seems that a peculiarity of their internal systems (giving each person not only an account ID but also a customer ID) makes this possible. I will post my findings once we have been through the full process and see if it all works as smoothly as they suggest.
If NatWest can make this work it would seem they have a unique selling point that they are failing to advertise or capitalise on.

Worse still if you do not need POA yet… but are dyspraxic [ technically dyslexic – numbers sequencing] & you have memory problems too the discretion & assistance of the Bank Manager has disappeared .No wonder there is a credit crunch . I have difficulty putting money in & taking it out.If that is happening to everyone Oh dear.Running the banks like a call centres is outrageous. Where did this idea come from?

Troy says:
4 May 2013

My Mum has been in an EMI care home since July 2012. She was admitted because she had three hospital admissions in 2012 and it was felt she could no longer cope. She has paranoid schizophrenia. At the same time my sister who was her next of kin and whose husband was seriously ill could no longer deal with Mum’s aggression and constant trips to the hospital, so I took over as NOK. I live 180 miles down south. It was agreed that Mum should go into the home as she was increasingly confused and unable to look after herself. It’s now believed she’s in the early stages of dementia as well. Anyway my sister who I was told was a third party signatory on Mum’s three savings accounts decided she’d had enough of Mum and me, too, and so I applied for LPA. As Mum is affluent with her savings she is classed as self-funding, but while I was waiting for LPA the local borough council agreed to pay for her care.

In the six months I had to wait I had to fight off debt collectors and Mum’s utility companies who WILL NOT TALK TO YOU if you don’t have power of attorney. I have had to insure her unoccupied property out of my own pocket and I finally got the gas and electricity companies to accept my meter readings and those accounts are clear. My advice is don’t bother to ring up customer services, they simply won’t help. Write letters to the head of complaints, go to the top.

Anyway after applying through Mum’s solicitor in October 2012 I was finally registered this week and collected the original LPA plus the certified copies and went to one of her banks where I live and began to register as her attorney. They were willing to give me online access.

Then the girl in the bank saw my sister’s name on her passbook. It turns out she isn’t a third party signatory she is in fact a joint account holder! So that was the end of that. The girl completed a form for me to send to my sister to sign to give me permission to access the account. It seems that the LPA alone isn’t enough for me just to represent Mum, I need the permission of the very person who has washed her hands of the whole sorry mess. And considering she’s not speaking to me either I have no idea how helpful she will be, although she didn’t object to my application as attorney.

I’ll probably get the same reaction from the other two banks as well.

Meanwhile I have to make sure the accumulation of Mum’s pension sitting in the post office card account is transferred to another account. It’s in the thousands and out of that I’ll have to repay the council. Soon the care home bills will come my way, too. So I have an Appointed Legal Representative form and the only place I can forward the outstanding money to is one of my own accounts as I can’t guarantee my sister will not be spiteful enough not to cooperate by giving me permission. Back in September I had a DWP visit and agreed to use Mum’s pension towards her care. It’s to be paid into my account for that purpose.

I’m so cross about the LPA not being enough to access her account, though!

andy h says:
4 May 2013

Be very careful about putting yr Mum’s money in accounts in your name. You’re in breach of the Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice. I did the same when Mum started to need carers and domestic services, lots of different people going into her home every day. I was worried about theft or that Mum, who had become gullible, would fall for a hard luck story and make out a big cheque to someone. She was always sending cheques for hundreds of pounds in response to begging letters from charities. The money needed moving out quickly, it would have taken weeks to set up a PoA account in her name, so I set up an internet account in my name which took an hour or two. Unfortunately my arsehole of a brother, who athough joint attorney with me had never lifted a finger to help unravel the mess Mum’s finances were in, complained bitterly about his hurt feelings at being ‘excluded’ and has conducted a long and unpleasant vendetta against me including many solicitors letters threatening to report me to the Office of the Public Guardian.
I still think it was the right thing to do to protect her funds, but it could have landed me in deep trouble. I could even have been investigated for fraud. Good luck, but don’t give your sister any room to make the sort of trouble I’ve had if you can possibly avoid it

Troy says:
4 May 2013

Hi Andy

Seems I’m not the only one suffering a family breakdown over this business.

When I had the DWP visit back in September I signed the form to agree to use Mum’s pension for her care only. They were happy for me to have her pension paid into my account so it would go straight onto her care bills.

However, when I got the LPA I didn’t feel comfortable about doing that so I wanted to change my mind and have it paid into one of her accounts, then I had the stumbling block at the bank when I went to register. I need to get some of her bills sorted out ASAP so I have no choice but to have the accumulation paid into one of my accounts. I am going to keep a strict record of outgoings in case I do come up against scrutiny. Mum’s solicitor did say the banks would keep a strict eye on outgoings. I would never take any money out of Mum’s account and put it into my own. I want to pay her bills from her accounts not mine.

Of course I could be worrying for nothing and my sister could just sign the bank form and send it back, it’s just that I don’t trust her not to be spiteful about it and drag her heels. She was the one who made the most noise about Mum going into care, for Mum’s benefit but she also had some selfish reasons. If I can get access the accumulation will go back into her account.

x

andy h says:
4 May 2013

Personally I think you’re doing the right thing. Just make sure you keep scrupulous records so that you can show, if some young upstart with a name to make for him or herself causes you trouble, that you have acted in your mum’s best interests. The last thing you want is to be accused of fraud and it’s dead easy for some official in Social services or the OPG, steeped in stupid procedures and protocols as they are, to argue that you should have done this or you should have done that. That’s the way I intend to play it. What alternative did you have other than to act the way you did? But it sounds as though it’s a steep learning curve for all of us going through this minefield for the first time. Mum’s now in a nursing home and her fees are assured for the forseeable future. But supposing I’d ignored the potential problem and a large chunk of her money had been stolen or given away?

Troy says:
5 May 2013

Thanks, Andy.

I’ve complained to the bank in question but I don’t expect to get anywhere. I asked questions on a free law forum but no one’s replied – I just don’t know what to do and I’m not sleeping well! I know I can report the banks to OPG but can I report my sister if she is obstructive? Have I gone through all this for nothing?!

It’s all very well these organisations saying they act in the interests of the donor but what about the idiots who are trying to help them? What about our interests? My husband says I don’t owe the home or the council anything, Mum does, but have I got time to drive weekly all the way up to Liverpool with her bank books and take her to the bank? No. I have to work for a start. I could go up there on a weekday and have my name put on her books but I could have done that six months ago if I knew I was going to get this hassle!

Troy says:
4 May 2013

I forgot to say that I don’t blame people for bending the rules, when you play it by the book and you still don’t get anywhere. I’m inclined not to go to the other banks and just open an online account in her name!