Banks are failing their customers at a critical time
Writes Lindsay Taylor, Solicitor – Wills, Trusts and Probate, Coffin Mew.
We have heard the mantra that making a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is sound financial planning. The alternative is for your family to apply to the Court of Protection should you lose capacity to handle your own affairs, which is not swift or cheap, when time may be of the essence and lack of immediate funding could have severe consequences.
What happens should you make provision for such an event, but your bank stands in the way of your attorneys accessing your accounts?
“In 2018 we heard about Tony Venner’s seven month battle as his wife’s attorney to get access to her Barclays’ account, despite a strong LPA. The bank’s delay meant Tony spent the last few months of his wife’s life fighting a battle that should never have happened, although eventually he got access with the help of his lawyer.”It would be hoped that banks and other financial institutions had taken a note of this failing. Instead, a May 2018 poll by Which? reveals that a fifth of attorneys have experienced profound difficulty in registering and using LPAs.
As a member of Solicitors for the Elderly I have always strongly advocated the setup and use of LPAs. Sadly, I have also been called upon to support attorneys and those who originally completed LPAs (the donor) in difficulties they have faced in how banks process these legal documents. Donors with full mental capacity to handle their own financial affairs, but who have struggled due to physical frailties can become locked out of their accounts due to the automatic assumption of mental incapacity where there is registration of the LPA.
Building Societies appear to be the most user friendly when registering powers of attorney with Coventry, Yorkshire and Nationwide leading the way with ‘good’ ratings of 75%, 85% and 76% respectively.
At the other end of the scale HSBC, Co-op and Yorkshire Banks received ‘poor’ ratings of 27%, 27% and 32% respectively, when attorneys were asked to recount their experiences.
One of the main complaints during the registration process is the inconsistent advice given. The results of the Which? poll also found that banks with a ‘poor’ rating in customer service when handling power of attorney registrations such as HSBC and TSB did not have a dedicated team.
Much of the issue appears to be with inconsistent approaches to the registration process, leading to communication breakdown. Perhaps it is time for financial institutions to agree and follow a standard procedure, much as LPAs are standard prescribed forms themselves.
It is vital to ensure that customers’ accounts are safeguarded. However, a properly executed LPA, particularly one which has been completed with the assistance of a solicitor, has the main goal of ensuring immediate access to and management of an individual’s finances. Artificial barriers and lack of communication can only upset people at what it already a difficult time.
“A properly executed LPA ensures immediate
and proper access to and management of an
For guidance through the complexities of setting up an LPA; speaking to a solicitor who specialises in theses areas can usually help enormously. A professional can ensure not only that the forms are completed correctly, but that the donor and attorneys have the proper advice and guidance needed to facilitate a smooth process when the document is needed.