Registering power of attorney with the bank: The financial ombudsman service publish guidance

We have previously written at length about why individuals should make a Lasting Power of Attorney (“LPA”). However, once a person has created a Lasting Power of Attorney and registered it with the Office of Public Guardian problems can still arise. In particular, attorneys often have problems dealing with the Donor’s banks. There may be a number of reasons for this. Every bank has their own procedures and security processes when an LPA is in place. Attorneys may find that the requirements are different for each bank which can be confusing. We often find that the person the attorney speaks to at the front desk may not have any experience dealing with LPAs and may not be familiar with the procedures or requirements. In addition, banks are big organisations and often the LPA document has to go to a different department to be registered and it takes time for it to go through their system. This can cause delay which is a problem if the LPA is needed urgently.

It should be noted that the same problems can arise when trying to register an existing Enduring Power of Attorney (“EPA”). The rules relating to when an EPA can be used and when it should be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian are different to those relating to an LPA. This can cause added confusion with the banks and other organisations. Attorneys should seek professional advice if they are not sure of their powers and responsibilities under the power.

The financial ombudsman has recently published helpful guidance for banks when dealing with powers of attorney. A high number of complaints come from customers unhappy with the service provided in this area and so it is hoped that these tips may assist the banks in providing a better service. In addition, you can also find tips for consumers when registering an LPA.

In our experience, to avoid problems the attorneys should make an appointment at the bank at the earliest opportunity to register the LPA. It is not advisable to wait until you need to access a Donor’s bank accounts urgently as it may take time for the banks to authorise you to do so. Explain to the person at the bank when you make the appointment that you want to register an LPA (or EPA) and ask them what their requirements are. They should then ensure that the appointment is with the correct member of staff trained in that area.

The bank should not insist on the Donor being present at any meeting. However, if the Donor still has mental capacity and is able to attend then it may be useful if they do. All the attorneys who are intending to act should attend the meeting and you should bring with you a certified copy of the LPA.  We always retain the original power of attorney document for our clients, unless a client specifically requests the original. We can provide certified copies of the LPA for attorneys to provide to the banks.  If you are in possession of the original LPA document, do not give this to the bank except for immediate copying and return. We have had cases in the past where the original has been handed to the bank and then subsequently lost or destroyed. The attorneys should also bring some ID with them to the bank. You will usually need some photo ID, such as a passport, and also proof of address in the form of a recent bank statement or utility bill. If your name or address has changed since the creation of the LPA you will need to bring along evidence of that change, e.g. a marriage certificate.

As the ombudsman suggests, it is sensible at your meeting with the bank to make them aware of any particular concerns or any urgency. You can ask them to explain their process to you and provide you with a timeline for dealing with things.

There is no guarantee that you will not encounter any misunderstandings or delays with the bank, but if you plan in advance and follow the above advice then you will at least be minimising the risk of any problems.

Finally, some banks restrict the services which attorneys can use. It is very common not to allow attorneys to operate bank accounts online. Therefore, it is worth checking at the outset if you will have all the access which you require; if not then you may want to open an account with a more flexible institution.

You can read the ombudsman’s tips and find further information at the following address:

The Myerson private client team provides specialist advice relating to powers of attorney, Wills, probate, inheritance tax planning, trusts and all aspects of family law to clients in Manchester and Cheshire.


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