It's the exasperated cry of many people when they take their new Lasting Power of Attorney to the bank. Some understandably feel aggrieved that after paying legal fees and Court fees they're still facing a brick wall when they go to the bank. I've had at least two cases already this month. So what's the problem?
To re-cap, a Lasting Power of Attorney is made by someone (the Donor) in order to give authority to another person (the Attorney) to manage their finances and property. There is another type, a health & welfare LPA, which is a completely different document dealing with those aspects only.
People can make LPAs themselves using the government website gov.uk/power-of-attorney/make-lasting-power, many seek legal advice before making them. Once completed and signed by everybody the LPA is sent to the Office of the Public Guardian and registered. Crucially, until it is registered the bank won't recognise the Attorney’s authority.
Unfortunately, because these documents are not 'run of the mill' and because it authorises control over a bank account the banks are understandably risk averse and often lack experience in dealing with them. I should point out that some banks are making efforts to train staff and many have specialist teams setup; where things go wrong it is normally at the cashier’s desk where the danger of 'the computer says no' is greatest!
So what can be done to avoid this?
It's clearly a national problem and the Financial Ombudsman has received many complaints concerning banks. Helpfully they have prepared some guidance for Attorneys when registering LPAs with banks which can be found at:
They have also prepared a guide for banks:
If people are finding the bank difficult it may be an idea to print these out to show the cashier/manager what is best practice.
It can of course be an extremely distressing time for someone trying to act as Attorney and dealing with the failing health of a close relative. In the vast majority of cases I've dealt with the cashiers have been understanding. It's the bank systems that are at fault, in those cases ask the member of staff to escalate the problem as quickly as possible. The duty falls on the Attorney to safeguard the assets of the donor so they must keep up the pressure.
Finally, one big area of confusion surrounds joint accounts in the case of mental incapacity. It's dangerous to assume your bank will continue to allow access for the other account holder - we know this isn't the case with all banks. The British Bankers Association have published some guidance:
but anybody concerned should check with their own bank.
Nobody said it would be easy, but it remains the case that, if you trust someone enough to manage your money, an LPA is still highly recommended.