/ 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.

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?

Charlotte Peters Rock says:
29 December 2014

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.