Can banks legally refuse to accept a durable power of attorney?

15 answers | Last updated: May 23, 2017
Emilypinaud asked...

I went to my parent's bank with a durable power of attorney. The bank manager informed me they do not accept power of attorney. So I added my name to their account. Is it legal for the bank not to accept a durable power of attorney?


Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

It is not acceptable for a bank to have a blanket policy against accepting a power of attorney, since they are sanctioned by the laws in every state.

Bank authorities are legally responsible to honor powers of attorney that have taken effect unless there is a fatal flaw such as a forged signature.

The problem some people have"”and you may be one of them"”is that they are dealing with a bank employee who is charged with following bank policy that is usually set by the bank's legal department. Sometimes, those departments are misinformed"”or impose unrealistic requirements.

Your action in adding your name to the account may take care of your needs, so that you won't be required to take any other action. But if you feel you need to get the power of attorney recognized, then you will likely need to be persistent. Insist that the teller with whom you are dealing bring in the branch manager. If the manager doesn't help, call the bank's legal department on your own.

Be ready to supply a copy of the power of attorney. Some documents take effect at a specified date. But if your parents' POA specifies that it takes effect when they lack a certain mental capacity, you will also need a doctor's certification of that condition.

Finally, the threat"”or actuality"”of moving any accounts you have with that bank to another institution may also speak loudly.


Community Answers

Wyndie answered...

Banks that do not accept your Power of Attorney are in violation of Probate Code, you can sue them and they may have to pay all costs, according to an attorney, however Bank of America has done this to me as well and I guess many others as well. This becomes a horrible problem to deal with at a time when you are trying to deal with parents who are ill at the same time. Personally I think all banks who refuse them should be fined about 1million dollars for each act and maybe they will think twice about making us jump through hoops just to do what our loved ones asked us to do in the first place! I will sign on to any class action suit against them I can find!


A fellow caregiver answered...

I'm having the same problem with my father's bank. Dad was diagnosed with dementia by his primary care physician and a neurologist last summer, after he made some near-catastrophic mistakes with his finances and taxes. It took several weeks (unfortunately) to get letters of incapacity from them so I could act as my father's power of attorney. In the meantime, my brother, who has a history of getting our parents to buy big-ticket items for him (he's in his 50s, by the way, and is an able-bodied man who works full time), persuaded Dad to open a checking account at the bank with his name on it. When I brought the letters of capacity to the bank and confronted the banking staff member who opened the account, she went to the bank manager, who refused to recognize my POA document and told me I would have to bring in my brother and father with me to the bank "to straighten things out." They apparently told my brother the same thing, because I received a string of threatening emails from him after that. Then the bank's legal department stepped in, froze the accounts, and called in Adult Protective Services. The APS investigator interviewed me, looked over the documents and agreed that I was the legal representative for my father. They also gave my brother a slap on the wrist. (Seriously. I showed the investigator the threatening emails but nothing was done about it.) The bank manager however refuses to even take my phone calls and the accounts remain frozen. Dad's attorney says we may have to sue the bank, which will cost thousands of wasted dollars. Also, in the meantime, I had no way of paying for Dad's expenses since we could no longer write checks from the frozen account. Luckily my credit union recognized my power of attorney and allowed me open an account for Dad. Social Security, the institution where Dad has his IRA, the other bank where my mother had some money squirreled away---all of them have recognized me as Dad's trustee and POA. It's just this one bank which has given me insomnia and put me through hell. (Dad is oblivious and doesn't care, as long as he has a couple of 20s in his wallet.) I hope the bank's manager roasts in hell after what she's done. No private institution should be allowed to create its own laws that violate the laws of the state and the country.


Maldacht answered...

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, it is illegal not to accept a power of attorney unless the person accepting it has reason to believe it is falsified. And in that case, the person presenting it can take the bank to court. I am a formal complainant -- I wrote to the Attorney General of Virginia to get a decision -- in a case against my mother's credit union, which broke the law by both placing conditions on their acceptance of my POA and requiring additional affidavits. Check your state law. Ours is relatively new (2010), but the language is very clear. The bank is breaking the law. If a bank asks me to provide any additional information again, I will call the police and show them the law. Then I will sue the hell out of the bank.


A.c. answered...

America First Credit Union refuses to acknowledge me as co-Attorney-in-Fact on both my mother's and sister's Power-of Attorney. They will only answer question for my brother since years ago he was added to their accounts, but now they are both incapacitated and he needs help in managing all aspects of their lives in an assisted living home. I do all of the detailed finances with the exception of anything connected to America First. My brother asks the questions I need answers to and then tells me second hand so I can follow through to do what meets their needs. This is a joint process, however it shouldn't be this difficult. We will be moving these accounts to an organization that will work with US. In addition, when WE presented the Power-of-Attorney together, America First asked for our Social Security Numbers, a lame story was given. Something about they needed to make sure we had good credit. We gave them the Social Security Numbers and now are concerned. By the way, since my mother and sister are on Social Securiy,my brother and I went to Social Security Administration (SSA) and have filed with them of our involvement in their finances. We filed all additional documents required by (SSA) to monitor these accounts. So why is America First so interested in our credit?


A fellow caregiver answered...

Explanation of another reason banks, investment companies and title companies will not take POA's immediately. How do they know that your POA is the only one out there and it is the newest one and that your's has not been revoked? They have no way to ascertain those facts without a court signed document.


Txblue answered...

I had similar problems with Atlanta First National bank in Atlanta Tx. We just lost my father and my mother fell and broken her arm and with her age she needed rehab to get her strength back. In the mean time her bills needed to be taken care of. My father and mother a year ago went to their attorney and did the forms granting me as their power of attorney and had them filed with the county court as both of them have had strokes and my dad wanted my mom to be able to be taken care of in case anything happened to him. So when it came time to use this POA for my mother, her bank absolutely refused to grant me access to take care of her bills. The manager stated that I would have to bring my mother up to the bank, mind you she was in rehab at this time, to add me to her account, plus we needed death certificates to take my father off to complete the process. I was very upset with the manager having to put us through all of these hoops. Needless to say, rehab allowed me to check my mother out for a couple of hours, she told them what she thought, added me to the account and we took funds we needed to take care of her bills. Needless to say, we opened an account with the credit union in town and will no longer deal with First national bank of Atlanta Texas again.


A fellow caregiver answered...

My father was unable to manage his finances. He agreed to accept my assistance but would turn around and withdraw cash and report his checks lost when I had his checkbook. I ended up having my name added to his account in such a way that his mischievous activity did not effect my credit while allowing me access to manage his payments. As his agent I was told, "There is no such thing as power of attorney" by a Citibank clerk regarding my father's POA. Whether this referred to bank policy or not the choice of words reflected appalling ignorance and poor training of bank staff.


Smccaughey answered...

I have had similar problems with my mothers bank. I have in begining after my father passed brought all necessary paper work to satisfy bank. I have done this now 5 times becuz for some reason it is or has not been saved in files or archives! I'm so sick of dealing with them. We have had financial problems one after another due to many circumstances including this. Now my moms house is foreclosing and it was going to auction I had tried to get a. Stay for the house trying to do what I could last minute. I did an emergency bankruptcy filing finally. An attorney filed this on our behalf. I needed to give some payment to law office and if I didn't do it prior to filing to stop auction I would have I recorse. I raced to bank to withdraw from my moms account and took. A copy of P.O.A. With me. I was told they could not let me do anything withdraw or otherwise until their advisors looked over the P.O.A. I was frantic telling the banker I had minutes to do this transaction or we would lose out home! He told me I had to bring back original copy if P.O.A. Before they would allow any kind of banking. I cannot locate the originals at this time and I have no idea what to do now! We have lost our home becuz of this. I need some advice what can I do to help or situation? I have no other help I'm 40 years old and alone with my mom. I don't ave enough. Knowledge in these areas to fully understand what our options are.


Cfirestone answered...

Bank of America forced me to "record" my POA with the county at a cost of $70. Then they had the gall to ask me why I had the POA for my elderly mother. I am pulling all accounts from this institution. They must be in violation of something.


Pmullins answered...

I am going thru the same thing right now with my dad. My dad lives with me. He was admitted in the Hospital in ICU on Thursday. My dad also has dementia. The hospital advised me to get an power of attorney over medical and financial while he was still coherent and understood what was going on when he is in his right mind and not in a dementia mind set. Well we did that this morning with a hospital notary that was on staff at the hospital that witnessed everything and he understood everything that was going on. He is doing much better praise the lord and will be moving to a rehab facility to get stronger before they will allow him to come home because of the blood thinner medicine he will be on. We took it up to his bank to get it filed with them and they cam back and told us they do not accept POAs. Now if the rehab facility needs his co pay money we are screwed cause we cant access his bank now cause they do not honor the papers. What do we do?


Svhill11 answered...

Any financial adviser or financial institution will typically give you a hard way to go. They do not like the deal with POAs. and when they do, they will try to get you to use their own forms. If they insist they refuse to honor a POA, report them because it is likely against your state law. It is a lawful way for people to conduct their affairs. But please note that as of 2011 a leaping POA is not legal in Florida. Once it is signed, it goes into effect. You just have to decide whether you want the person named to exercise it for you at that time or not. Note that once you start as POA, expect those you rub the wrong way, especially if your principal has assets, to file reports with APS to try and strip you of your POA. Not every time, but it does happen. So keep good records and always do what is in the best interest of your principal. So many hotline complaints are filed down here in FL that I have been told that 80% or more are completely without merit and 90% are dismissed. The agency is so backlogged and overworked and they have to go look at every complaint that is not cleared at the time it is called in. So, be aware that banks, financial advisers, family members, brokers, are all potential adversaries if your love one has any assets at all. And remember the Medicaid lookback rule if they are at risk of running out of money in the next 5 years. Contact a Medicaid Elder law attorney specifically for that. Good luck. But no matter what bank you go to they should accept a POA. Be vigilant. Get an elder law attorney if they refuse to write them a letter and take it in with you which basically informs them their legal department will be contacted and then the State banking commission.


Beachy77 answered...

My uncle has over the last several months been in and out of hospital and rehab after he fell and broke his hip. Before all of this he'd had a stroke that affects his speech and balance. As one of very few who can understand him, I became his spokesperson during his health issues. After his initial fall and hospitalization, he appointed me as his DPOA to take care of financial matters, doctor appointments, living arrangements etc. Since this began his dark mood swings have worsened in which he becomes irrational and thinks everyone is trying to harm him or steal from him. He has next to nothing and has been poor most of his life and has been stolen from in the past, however, in the last few years, he's had nothing but gracious assistance from everyone around him, but to listen to him, you'd think he was surrounded by villains. He is currently in a nursing facility with the right to check himself out for short excursions when he wants. He left the other day without notifying anyone, went to the bank, saw the recent withdrawal I had made to cover the cost of carpet cleaning his vacated apartment and pay his final utilities ($225) and told them I was no longer his POA. The bank staff assisted him in closing the account in which I am DPOA and opening a new account. He is entirely incapable of paying his ongoing bills and conducting any financial affairs for himself. What I find confusing is that the language of the DPOA states clearly that the DPOA continues in effect despite any mental incapacity and can only be terminated by him in writing to his agent. If they accepted the DPOA, why did they not follow up to confirm if I was indeed no longer his DPOA? No phone call, nothing. Older people can become irrational and forgetful and it is often for their own sake/safety and while in their right mind that they assign a DPOA. How can I as his DPOA protect him when the bank undermines the entire reason for a DPOA by ignoring one? My husband wants me to just be done with the whole thing since it has been very disruptive to our family in the amount of time, loss of income due to having to miss work, wear and tear on the vehicle, and the increased stress load in general in trying to help him. I don't feel like the bank should skate on this and continue causing problems for other people. They should correct their procedures. If they accept a DPOA (as they're required by law to do), they should also abide by the terms of it. Otherwise, it's meaningless to have one, and they in effect and reality are not accepting a DPOA (which is against the law).


Annasniece answered...

We have the reverse problem. The bank saw the POA and handed the money over, ( Over $350,000.00 and after a 7 day hold) but the POA presented and accepted by the bank is invalid for the LAws of Maryland during transaction periods. ( it requires 2 witnesses and there was only the notaries signature as a single witness). This is Fraud by the individual for sure who took the money, but what is the liability of the bank ? The account holder is dead now.He died within 3 weeks of the POA.. Heirs, are trying to deal with this gross negligence by the bank. and of course the banks attorneys are uncooperative, and we don't have the money to take the criminals to court to recoup the stolen cash.SO you have the REG - E coverage of electronic fraud, but what about criminals just walking in with this invalid POA, and walking out? ( or deposit into their account in this case). This is a big bank, long standing institution, not a mom-pop shop. Would this be Consumer protection? Banking Regulations protections? Finding out what is a valid POA is easy with the internet or just calling an attorney in that state to determine what is valid.


Carlasteg answered...

In response to an earlier statement..

A POA is invalid after a person dies. The estate then takes over.

POA is only for living persons.