/ Money

Power-less of attorney – banks need to get it right

We get plenty of calls about power of attorney, and they don’t make happy listening. Banks are letting their customers down at this potentially stressful time – so what’s going wrong and why?

More of us are living longer, but there’s no guarantee that we’ll be in fine fettle to the bitter end. For the one million of us who will develop dementia, and many more who may become too frail to manage our accounts, it makes sense to sort out our finances before it’s too late. This is why Lasting Power of Attorney (PoA) exists.

Establishing PoA should be simple. You complete a form, get it signed by your nominated attorneys, hand over £130 and register it with the Office of the Public Guardian when you need to. Then you inform the relevant financial providers.

So far, so good. But we’ve heard from many people who have experienced problems when trying to act on their responsibilities. It’s hard enough to keep our own accounts in order (at least it is for me), let alone another person’s. And while many people only act as an attorney for one or two people, the banks deal with hundreds of thousands of cases every year. So why do they keep getting it wrong?

How hard can it be?

We last covered power of attorney in 2010 and the post still attracts comments. Andy Hamilton told us he found one bank ‘obstructive and incompetent over a period of years’. He added:

‘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.’

Another contributor told us about problems with a well-known building society. Jo told us:

‘Maybe I should play the undignified game that we have been reduced to before, of taking my Mum into branch and reminding her of her date of birth and address and even how to write her name when they ask their security questions. Anyone would think it was their money.’

I suspect the problem is that the person picking up the phone or sitting behind the counter doesn’t always understand how PoA works. I might be more understanding if this was a rare occurrence, but it appears this isn’t the case. Surely it’s not beyond the banks means to have a crib sheet on their systems that tackles PoA requests?

Banks need to get it right

It’s time the banks and building societies got their act together on power of attorney. They could start by reading the advice guides published by the Office of the Public Guardian and the government.

Right now it’s consumers who are losing out, as they’re wasting time going back to companies who haven’t followed the rules. But with an aging population, you’d think the banks would realise that it’s in their best interests to ensure they understand the law on this – otherwise the number of complaints will only grow.

David M says:
21 February 2013

I have the Lasting Power of Attorney for my mother. She has been in a nursing home for the last 2 years and suffers from severe dementia. I tried registering my LPA and opening a saving account with Nationwide but they said they could not do this as I could not provide something with her current name and address on it. As she receives no mail (everything for her is sent to my address) I am obviously unable to do this. The Nationwide apologised but said their hands were tied. What is the point of an LPA if I still continually have to provide other evidence, some which doesn’t exist?

It might be worth asking the nursing home. The home my mother was in was always happy to provide a letter confirming her residence there. That always did the trick
Good Luck.

(I’d contact the CEO too as suggested below. These guys need to know they are not serving their customers well)

jhdean0 says:
21 February 2013

If I was you I would e-mail the CEO of the Nationwide gjbeale2@nationwide.co.uk (Graham Beale) and explain the situation clearly and succinctly and then explain exactly what you would like to happen. Unfortunately you are in the position where a Customer Services operator is forced to follow the company business process. It is the business proccess that is wrong and that can only be tackled from the top. Best of Luck

David M says:
22 February 2013

Thank you both for your suggestions. I’ll see if I can get any joy from the nursing home, and if this is sufficient for the Nationwide I’ll leave it at that. If not I may contact the CEO, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Just setting out on EPA for my in-laws. This makes interesting and worrying reading.

Dave C says:
24 October 2013

Our friend, over 2 hours journey away, wrote to her Santander branch in the first week of September, asking them to change the address on her 2 savings accounts to ours, explaining her house was empty and about to be sold (she has moved into a care home). She has poor vision and can’t manage her finances. She saw her solicitor and set in motion a Power of Attorney for us. The bank sent a letter to her empty house saying they couldn’t change her address unless she went into the bank – apparently because Santander don’t have copies of customers’ signatures. We didn’t know that nothing had happened. We went to our local bank branch with the certified POA for the bank to process. They wrote us 10 days later and said all is well, phone up for internet access. I did, but they can’t change her address on the accounts till I go in again. Meanwhile, after nearly 7 weeks, their data is out of date and they may send her statements to strangers at her old house – while we are doing our best to look after her financial interests!

Email the CEO Ms Ana Botin. I did … it was instantly effective. You can can find her email address by googling ceo santander.
Good luck

Dave C says:
27 October 2013

Pleased to say that a visit to the local branch eventually achieved the desired changes – took my huge folder of paperwork. When I arrived I was second in the queue – by the time I left the queue was out to the street (only two windows open at the counter as usual!). My biggest surprise was when the young girl behind the counter had to ask a superior whether my passport was sufficient to identify me (they had the details of the POA on their system, and I had other evidence of my address). I was tempted to say that my passport would get me in and out of Russia and the USA – so was probably sufficient for Santander!

Thought my problems were nearly over till I rang Southern Water to ask for the water meter to be read and final bills sent to me when selling the house shortly – surprised to be asked to submit a copy of the POA for this to be achieved – but that’s off the radar on this thread – so I will sign off, wishing others good luck and thanks for the responses!

Three financial institutions have been brilliant, going out of their way to be helpful. One current account refused to set up any form of P.O.A. current account and insisted on having every transaction on the savings account sent in writing. This one is being shut down. I shall probably run it with twenty pounds left in until I get a letter asking to close it. I wonder how long that will take? The actual P.O.A. was “fairly” smooth but did take several months of letters, forms and the like. The Guardian processed it all in about a month which wasn’t too bad. Post, set up, everything seems to be running smoothly and Dad, bless him, is content and relieved. I certainly believe that face to face contact is very helpful and, post P.O.A., I have gone out of my way to tell my local branch if anything unusual is about to happen re cheques or cash movements.
From my experience, I was happy to deal with those institutions that were helpful, visiting where possible, and I would suggest that that is half the battle over; rather than trying to fight those who fling red tape and protocol around. Not only do they make it easier to set things up, but they will also be better at running things afterwards.

Frustrated says:
29 June 2014

I have LPO (property and finance) registered with the OPG for both my parents. For my mum, dad and I are ‘jointly and severally’ attorneys. For my dad, I am sole attorney. Dad (physically ill but mentally ok) is in hospital, mum (with dementia) had to go in a care home. They have a joint account with Yorkshire Bank who were clueless! Firstly I had to ask to see someone privately as the girl at the counter was asking me for a death certificate! Obviously confusing LPO with letters of administration. Secondly the person I saw privately, copied my passport and accepted that I needed to have access to the joint account to pay mum’s care home fees by direct debit. However – she accepted I was sole attorney for LPO for dad and said I could have a debit card. BUT in the case of my mum, I would need a letter from dad’s hospital proving he was in hospital. This is due to him also being an attorney with me, for my mum. What part of ‘jointly and severally’ did they not understand?? J and S means that each attorney can act independently of one another therefore there is no need for proof of dad being in hospital – he has already agreed that I could act independently if he couldn’t manage mum’s or his own finances. So I am stymied with mum’s LPO, however the bank just said ‘well it’s a joint account anyway so you are still getting access, what’s the problem’. I think I will have to copy them the Law Society’s interpretation of what Jointly and Severally actually means.

Dave C says:
30 June 2014

Anybody got any experience of lasting POA and responses from National Savings (NS&I)? Our friend has Premium Bonds. We have registered the POA with NS&I.

Their “computer says ‘no’ ” when it comes to issuing premium Bond certificates with our friend’s name on – apparently, they have to be issued my name on, so there is nothing on the papers to say the money is our friend’s. Government department that can’t understand – ugh! So I have (apparently) two different holder numbers with well over the maximum permitted holding if you add them together – strange that the computer doesn’t hiccup over that! If i die before my friend, I hope my executors will be able to sort out the inevitable muddle that this will create!

Heather Hayward says:
1 September 2014

I am trying to register POA for my parents who are elderly and no longer drive. Unexpectedly Barclays was very easy to deal with. All sorted in one visit complete with online banking. Yorkshire Bank, three months down the line and I am getting somewhere as I have a card but three visits to branch later still no online access. Post Office bank, words fail me no progress at all.

To Heather Hayward,
Get in touch with the Office of the Public Guardian and ask them to help/intervene. For a long time the OPG was pretty sluggish in helping attorneys and CoP deputies get the authority recognised and respected by the banks.
I too found Barclays good when in a position to sit down, face-to-face, and discuss requirements. Santander were useless, entirely due to ignorance of the staff re issues of this sort – and rather than admit they didn’t know, failed to help at all.

I took power of attorney with ID etc to Natwest on the 27/10/2014 and have got nowhere with them.I have lodged a complaint but still nothing,the fact that the debit card expired 31/10/2014.We have had no access to the account to withdraw any money.The lady concerned is now in a home and feels unable to leave the premises is still, compentant.What to do next!!!

Email Les Matheson, MD of Nat West Products and Marketing. This way and level of contacting is usually effective. You can can find his email address by googling “Mr Les Matheson, MD of Products and Marketing” and clicking on the ceoemail website
Good luck

I registered my POA for my Mum with her 4 banks in June 2015; today (October 2015) I have been told by *NatWest* that there is no record of the POA on their system and I need to fill the paperwork out again !!!!

This was topped off by blatant lies from the staff , claiming 1) it must have expired (it had no date restrictions), then 2) it must be the wrong type and then 3) oh! there’s no record of it on our system.

This was after me spending *4 HOURS* registering in branch in June.

april joy kahn says:
29 December 2014

All power of attorneys are rife with abuse.
Inheirtance abuse
trust fund abuse
POA and EPA abuse
All power of attorney and trust funds should be handled by the government.

Fuming of France says:
29 December 2014

All power of attorneys are rife with abuse.????????????

That’s a bit over the top don’t you think?

The government is the last organisation one would wish to oversee LPA, since it is so utterly corrupt. Asset stripping by government is no more helpful than asset stripping by fraudulent individual.

What is certain, is that everyone should take a careful inventory of those whose actions they trust, and then make up their own mind and set up LPA ready for the time when they might not be able to run their own affairs.

That might not work perfectly – the chosen person might not wish to take on so great a responsibility – but it is probably safer than relying on banks, solicitors or any aspect of government.

That (very sad) state could be possibly improved by having two people as LPA’s perhaps one for health and welfare and another for finance and property? Or two LPAs who can both act either individually or together. But trust is the main element of all of this.

If you’re growing older and are not happy in your relatives and friends, keep searching for new friends (ie living a very broad and happy social life) until you find someone whom you can – with very good reason – trust…

Shepburn says:
9 February 2015

I just registered a lasting power of attorney on my parents HSBC joint account. My mum has Alzheimer’s and my dad cannot read,write or speak following a stroke. I’ve not heard back from the bank yet but already know there will be issues. During the meeting with branch staff I was told of the things I can and can’t do, one being transfer money to my own account except for small gifts or in exceptional circumstances. I pointed out this would cause me immediate problems as I just paid for a holiday that my father wants to take (with me, my family and a carer) which I put on my credit card. I was advised that this would be ok as it’s an exceptional circumstance but I’d best do it by telephone banking as I will need to explain. It makes me angry that I am going to have to explain and justify myself to someone at a call centre somewhere for transactions I should be able to make online. I also have a LPA for my mums Santander account and although their website is very poor, at least I don’t have to call up to explain myself to someone i don’t know. I am sure the HSBC rule is well meant but my parents and siblings trust me to run their finances,that is why I have the LPA. I really don’t see what is achieved by this rule other than to add a layer of bureaucracy and frankly humiliation, to what is already a pretty tough situation.

Alan says:
6 July 2015

I have Enduring Power of Attorney for my mother and was able to set TPA banking with her bank, Barclays. Initially, my mother was still using her cheque book and the PoA was not registered with the Court of Protection. However, I was able to get a TPA debit card and set up on-line and mobile banking facilities. Eventually, my mother’s condition deteriorated and it was necessary to register the EPA with the Court. I informed Barclays and they acknowledged that my mother would no longer be able to manage her account. At this point things started to go wrong. First, my debit card expired and no automatic replacement was issued. I was then asked to go into a branch to have my identity and signature verified (fair enough). I then found that I could no longer log on to on-line banking. After frequent phone calls to help desks and visits to the local branch, I am still unable to log on to on-line banking. Neither I nor the branch know what the problem is and however much they apologise, I am left with the impression that Power of Attorney banking is not well understood right across the organisation and that the various teams that deal with problems do not communicate well with each other. I was beginning to think I should switch banks, but having looked at the correspondence above, I see that Barclays is one of the better banks in this area! That’s not saying much, though!

Alan, I sympathise – I had similar problems with my wife’s account with Santander – cancelled debit card and online access denied. For me Barclays got it right, and set up a new TPA account with cheque book, debit card and online access. I think it helped that we had a separate account with Barclays. Mind you, online access is via a ‘Switch Customer’ option from the existing account.

Re banks procedures re PoA (and Court of Protection matters) I would point a finger at BBA who issue “guidance notes” and don’t do much (it appears) to see if any notice is taken. The first Guidance Note came out in 2007, and a reminder in 2010, and another reminder in 2013 but there is little evidence that much has changed. Bearing in mind the level of discussion in the media re mental illness, it makes you wonder have much practical common sense is used by bank staff, and those who write operating procedures. They’ve been taught to say “is there anything else I can help you with?” so why not some education about mental capacity problems?

I have a Lasting Power of Attorney for my brother’s affairs following him having a mental breakdown and being diagnosed as bi-polar. Nearly everybody has been fine, even the DWP. The only problem I have encountered is with Nat West Cards who refuse to accept it and instead want me to apply to be added to his account, involving credit checks etc. The irony is I only contacted them as they are pursuing him for a credit card debt. All his other creditors are fine, even the Inland Revenue.

I hold a sole court registered enduring power of attorney, but my mothers bank still allowed a third party to be given access to her statements. Unbelievable. The case is now with the ombudsman.

Fed up of Somerset

I now have Lpa for my mother but it was a distressing time waiting. It took 13 weeks. As my mother is frail and as they saw her with me in the bank withdrawing money they immediately put a stop on her account (in her interest) of course. Since the beginning of June she has had no money. Not for food bills or anything. I have had to keep her financially and we are now mid July. Banks don’t seem to care at all. This has now meant my family have been severely short of funds. If I didn’t love her so much she would be homeless and have starved to death!?! I have now been to the branch and,registered the Lpa but have yet to try and use it

I have had a dreadful time with NatWest they are the most unhelpful bank I have come accross. I have two relatives, husband and wife who have a joint account with the aforementioned bank. I have been given a document stating that one of the relatives is no longer capable of handling his own affairs the other is in a nursing home with Severe Alzheimer Dementia and is at the stage when eating and drinking is a major problem. The one no longer capable has been sectioned under the mental health act as he has dementia. The bank is not taking any notice of the legal document, how can I sort this out as funds are used to keep paying the care home and associated fees.

Brian – I think all banks act in the same way in these circumstances. It would seem that your male relative does not have capacity so cannot give instructions to the bank. His wife might have capacity but is handicapped by advanced dementia. Without a valid power of attorney the bank cannot accept instructions from anybody else. Assuming that you are the right person to act on behalf of, or in support of, your relatives, I think you will need to obtain specialist advice on how to proceed. I would suggest you contact Citizen’s Advice, or join the Which? Legal service, or go to a local solicitor who is competent in these matters. You might also find that a special charity like the Alzheimer’s Society, DementiaUK, or Age UK, can help with advice [there are others].