/ 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.


I think they do have a crib sheet but that really isn’t good enough. They need to KNOW what they are doing. They also don’t recognise correct documents when you take them in. What they need to do is TRAIN their staff. It is the same with ISAs. They try and get the counter to staff to deal with you and it is frustrating when you know more than the counter staff (and that is without knowing much.)

Office of the Public Guardian should prosecute the banks, building societies and other institutions which refuse to abide by the law. It should be very high profile prosecution, and its result put firmly into the public arena.

There is no excuse for the current deliberately shambolic treatment of people who have abided by the law to help out a friend or relative.. often whilst physically exhausted from looking after the care needs of the same person

Financial institutions will act outside the law for as long as they can get away with it. The Government is fully aware of that.. and has set up the system to ensure that people remain frustrated and trapped within impossible systems. Is this a way of keeping us all occupied, so we do not see what else is happening?

Shame on ‘Which’ for telling people they must go back to the financial institutions. The advice should be to lobby – with Which – the Office of the Public Guardian, which is just not doing its job.

It needs to prosecute!

I’ve just found this ‘conversation’ – having posted a comment to the older one less than an hour ago! (And prompted by Dick who asked ‘why no response?’ etc !!

Anyway, that aside, I couldn’t agree more with the need for the OPG and/or other Government agency to grow some teeth and start biting. Why do we/they allow banks to ignore Court Orders?

Here’s what my first post said ….

This thread is interesting – at least to me. The basis was “banks and power of attorneys” – therefore it’s odd that the first post was about the Court of Protection Orders*.

My wife has vascular dementia. Despite having obtained an Order of the Court of Protection authorising me, as her deputy, to manage her affairs, Santander cancel her Debit Card and remove access to online banking.

To me, and in the view of many others, this high-handed action is in direct contradiction of the Court Order. I’m not sure if this is contempt of Court, but it’s unhelpful, obstructive and contemptible behaviour – and what’s worse, no-one seems to be able to get anyhting done about it.

* In case some aren’t aware (as most banks don’t seem to be) a Power of Attorney is used where individuals consciously make a decision to give authority to other/s to carry out certain tasks (usually financial) in certain circumstances. An Order of the Court of Protection is needed where an individual, under the terms of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, appoints a ‘deputy’ to look after the affairs of someone who lacks the capacity to do so themselves. A large fee is payable to get an Order, and the deputy is then under the supervision of the Office of the Public Guardian (more fees involved) and often an insurance surety bond is required (more costs!)

The temptation to access the accounts on their behalf, assuming you can find out the login and security details, are overwhelming especially when the issue is one of hearing problems coupled with minor memory issues.

It’s all very well chasing headline grabbing scams for maximum publicity, but the reason we have a rip off society is because Hampton principles prevent action, prevent inspection without good reason (which means from a big official body like a foreign regulator, to you and me), whilst taxpayers pay millions each year for official protection that we are simply not getting.

The awful thing is that previous to the new law which – in theory – helps to cut down fraud, there was no investigation of the accounts of those who had been defrauded, since no Registration of any Enduring Power of Attorney had been made.

Where no Enduring Power of Attorney had been Registered, prior to death – in spite of the demonstrated need – there was no requirement after death, for such an Enduring Power of Attorney to be formally Registered.

My father (different name to mine) was stripped of everything and then of his life, by his second wife. But nothing has been done to bring this woman to account, in spite of the large range of official records which show that she was instrumental in his unlawful killing.

So, the answer still seems to be, wait until they look as if they might be losing their marbles, move in, look after them, marry if they are persuadable, then get rid, and no-one will prosecute.

My father’s blood family, having been blocked for many years, by the police refusal to investigate his provable murder, are still no nearer any resolution.

Yet his affairs were taken over by the woman he married. She then counts as his ‘next of kin’.. and is in a prime position to hide all documents which would prove her culpability.. since the police obviously regard the killing of the old as OK.

I don’t know that there is currently any benefit – under such circumstances of lack of oversight – with the new Lasting Power of Attorney.

Who is overseeing it? How well is it being overseen?

In such a situation, the blood family cannot afford to take on an open-ended court case.

The widow, having deliberately caused the death sits on – and destroys – all the documents, which include family business records..

The legal aid system will not touch it.. because the ‘complainant has to be the ‘next of kin’ (ie the widow).

And the murder is not investigated, since it seems to be OK with the police if the old die – and no questions asked.

So, I am not sure how the new legislation is supposed to help anybody.. but what is being amply demonstrated by different people who write to you is that a Lasting Power of Attorney is not worth the paper it is written on.

[This comment and your username has been edited due to legal reasons. Thanks, mods.]

We are not all living longer – the average age of the population is increasing, there is a huge difference.

I don’t want to make a comment at the moment. I just want to continue following the thread as it doesn’t seem to have transferred me from the old thread

Anthony WALKER says:
6 July 2012

You are asking far too much of the Banking Fraternity, in its widest terms! The Act, made with good intentions, is far too complex and expensive. True something needed to be done, but this Act was OTT. Far to complex for people to make and fully understand.

No. The only thing necessary is that ‘the banking fraternity’ (well chosen phrase, that) should get its act together and actually serve its customers.

A good start might be ensure that all of its employees – especially within its central legal department – should have a good working knowledge of the law in respect of Reguistered Lasting Power of Attorney.

It currently seems that having been trained on the vagaries of Enduring Power of Attorney, there is seen to be no need to upgrade information to stay the right side of the law as it currently stands (and has stood since 2007)

One might expect that 5 whole years might be long enough for banks to accurately inform/retrain their own employees.

Phil says:
6 July 2012

Having done Probate following my Dad’s death then having to have PoA for my Mum the variation is unbelievable. Example: Lloyd’s Bank (often marked down by Which for customer service) has been brilliant; and I commend the staff of the Beaconsfield branch. Yet Halifax (now part of same Lloyd’s organisation) has more copies of my passport and utility bills than anyone on the planet – and this just to add (but not yet successfully) the ability to phone up and ask questions about my PoA.

I stood in one branch of Halifax listening to another poor soul desperately trying to complete his PoA actions based on what he had been told by another part of the organisation. He failed, of course. And this is another beef: why do we put up with conducting personal and distressing activities at a counter in front of an assembly of other people? The only good news is that most of the Halifax users, having overheard my problems, seem to think it is a useless organsiation too. More power to switch with Which.

There is absolutely no standardisation and many of the special PoA Helplines are anything but. In a society where people die, and people grow old, and this is not a surprise as we have been doing all this for some time now, it obviously needs the government to introduce standards and provide penalties to give some organisations a real kicking to behave like members of the human race.

And to give them their due the DVLA was brilliant (I know who would have thought it) and the DWP tried but kept failing.

I have Lasting Power of Attorney for my cousin who is in the early stages of dementia and has been in a care home for the last 18 months. I handled the sale of her house and manage all her affairs myself and while the Social Security and Social Services don’t have a problem with this, the Halifax Bank don’t seen to recognise it at all. They still send statements to my cousin and a few months ago sent us both a new debit card. I don’t seem to be able to get through to them that I am acting for her.

My husband had a PoA for his father and had only praise for HSBC when he wished to register it with them. However, when he tried to register the PoA with Yorkshire Bank (for whom my father-in-law had worked at a senior level) he was told that he would have to get my father-in-law to sign a letter addressed to the bank confirming that he wished to register the PoA!! No matter what my husband tried to do YB would not accept the PoA, neither would they accept a letter from my f-i-l’s solicitor stating that the PoA should be registered with them. In the end, f-i-l signed a letter as YB said that in their flowchart that was what had to be done!

Glasgow resident says:
6 July 2012

I have POA for my mother but have had endless problems with Alliance & Leicester/Santander.

Trying to open new accounts to get better interest rates has also been really problematic – the Byres Road Nationwide Branch were unwilling to accept the POA form and actually asked if I could not just guide my mothers signature (she cannot write following a stroke)!

Most of your correspondents should be grateful they are only doing these things as a one off. As a solicitor I am regularly appointed as an Attorney, and regularly come up against the same issues with a wide variety of institutions who quite simply have no understanding of what a Lasting Power of Attorney is or the difference between that and an Enduring Power of Attorney. Unfortunately, having to bang your head against a brick wall with staff of banks and other institutions who think they know what they are talking about can end up adding considerably to clients’ costs.
There was a huge amount of abuse with EPAs, a substantial amount of which should have been avoided with the compulsory registration element of the LPA but it has made them much more expensive and just given another reason not to understand how Powers of Attorney (of any variety) work.
The Office of the Public Guardian are not blameless in any of this either and seem intent on refusing registration of any LPA which contains provisions that they don’t like, even when they are phrased to fall within the regulations, and they have been fully approved by the donor. They are woefully under-resourced and take far too long to deal with any registration and as one of the correspondents above says, don’t even waste your breath asking them to look at investigating misuse of an unregistered EPA.
And lastly, don’t forget that when you send an LPA for registration, your cheque will be banked the day it is received. If the Donor of the LPA should pass away even before your application to register is acknowledged, never mind completed, you won’t get your money back. Given that even the most straight forward registrations are currently taking around 3 months to deal with, as mercenary as it may sound, I normally advise my clients that if the Donor’s life expectancy is not much more than this they may just be wasting their time and effort in bothering to register at all.

Clare says:
23 July 2012

I have been driven to distraction trying to parcel my mum’s money from her house sale into high interest accounts. My worst experience to date has been with Post Office Savings who twice refused to accept a certified copy of my LPA correctly endorsed as per the OPG instructions, and therefore effectively an ‘original’.
My best experience has been with the Brittania who kindly and efficiently opened an account in less than 20 minutes.
My advice to anyone who wants to avoid a coronary is to deal only with mutuals with offices on the high street and avoid online-only accounts like the plague.

Heath Park Shopper says:
25 July 2012

The comments preceding this, and things I have heard and read elsewhere, fill me with some trepidation As I am currently considering the need to go down the Power of Attoreny route on behalf of my father I cannot say I am looking forward to doing so.

clare says:
30 July 2012

The concept of Lasting Power of Attorney is hugely valuable, but its delivery needs a very careful rethink. Having to use an eleven-page document which has to be copied by every organisation until it becomes dog-eared and ragged with staple holes is nonsense in an electronic age. There is a central registration process through the Office of the Public Gaurdian. A system similar to that of the General Medical Council where a doctor’s registration number can be quickly and easily checked for validity online would be sensible. This could be tied into the registration of deaths through the government ‘Tell Us Once’ facility so that an LPA invalidated by death could be quickly withdrawn. A simple plastic credit-card sized photocard would help to confirm identity and mitigate the concern about fraud.

So many of us are living into advanced old age and more and more of us will need help with managing our affairs. Lasting Power of Attorney is invaluable in these situations, but the government needs to consider the requirements of the attorneys. Dogged determination and a thick skin should not be part of the attorney’s job description.

Fuming of France says:
25 August 2012

I had a similar experience to yours when trying to register a copy LPA with C&G who would not accept a copy certified by the donor. Emails to “complaints dept.” were replied to by someone who had obviously neither read nor understood the complaint and eventually,after three requests for him to re-read the original email admitted that the subject was outside his area of expertise! He suggested that his colleague should ring me to discuss the matter which I agreed to and attached a link to the Powers of Attorney Act 1971. I then received a letter dated the day after I had agreed to a phone call saying that they had tried to phone me but were unable to reach me.(I was at home for the most of that time) The letter also said that Lloyds Banking Group has ‘decided’ that a copy LPA must be certified by a solicitor. What is the point of the POA act if the banks can ignore its content and try to fob off anyone who tries to correct them?

write/email the CEO … you need to hold these guys feet to the fire

clare says:
27 August 2012

This is because the great institutions do not seem to understand that a a ‘certified’ copy is effectively an original.

A formally notarised copy would cost money, and having already paid squillions to a solicitor to set up the LPA, it seems unjust that the estate should have to shell out even more in notary fees.

This needs to be addressed with the government – Mr Dan Moore from Which, are you still following our thread?

Fuming of France says:
27 August 2012

To ad insult to injury I today received a cheque for £25 from LLoyds customer relations”in resolution of your complaint” This is the oldest trick in the book! Beware all, if you get a cheque like this and pay it in the matter is ended. Shame on you Lloyds.

Fuming of France says:
28 August 2012

The saga continues. Phone calls to both the financial ombudsman and the FSA are met with the response that the matter is outside the scope of their remit and I should contact a solicitor! Exactly who is looking after the interests of the consumer?

Fuming of France says:
28 October 2012

Finally I have found out that in their terms and conditions Lloyds banking group, of which C&G are a part, there is a clause that requires a copy LPA to be certified by a solicitor. It would have saved a great deal of time if their complaints department were aware of this. My mother is closing the account and moving it to another bank. She also thanks Lloyds for the daylight light bulbs the £25
bought. Yes, we did keep it even though Lloyds were right, such is the price of incompetent staff!

Oh dear – I am just embarking on this battle. 1st round to Natwest who, as a result of receiving the EPA and the form I needed to complete, have sent my mother a letter telling her that she is mentally incapable (not quite yet, she is not) and that she needs to fill in the forms to register her EPA made in 2003! If she is incapable how can she fill in the forms legally??? Also EPA’s pre 2007 are still valid, the Dept of Justice site tells me so and it appears should only be registered if the “donor” is actually mentally incapacitated. Once registered the process becomes much more formal and complicated. I just want to look after my 95 year old mother as gently and easily as I can.

Stephen McMaster says:
26 October 2012

If you think banks, utilities etc are bad over PoAs, try getting the medical profession to acknowledge them and engage with you as the attorney!! It’s as if you don’t exist.
I shan’t go into detail about my 92 year old mother’s treatment before she died recently, but in respect of the PoA , the GP practice were reluctant to record it and when it was on file , nobody who was treating her, knew it was there The hospital were completely unaware of what the Power enabled. I was flabbergasted at how little (nil) attention was given to its existence and its relevance….Their lack of involving me as attorney made things uneccessarily frustrating at an already very harrowing time.

John D says:
27 October 2012

I have just achieved LPA for my father who is 91 and am about to embark on submtting the LPA to HSBC so that I can leagally manage his account. In the previous thread in 2010 someone mentioned that under the Disability Act and the Mental Capacity Act that instituions (ie banks) must provide the same facilities for Disabled/Mentally incapacitated people (ie their Attorneys) as they do for normal customers. Can anyone clarify this or even better actually point out where in these acts these words are written?

As a separate question, while I have been horrified/deeply concerned about all the horror stories listed above can anyone point me towards any legislation and/or guidance that can be used ‘as a big stick’ with which to threaten the Banks to make them operate in accordance with what I believe to be purpose of the LPA ie, to operate the bank accounts of our loved ones, on their behalf, with the full priveligies and procedures that our loved ones once had and used.

Fuming of France says:
28 October 2012

My experience of HSBC is that they are complying with all the requirements and are friendly and helpful. You should not need the big stick.