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How can I get my bank to honor the power of attorney I have for my husband, who has Alzheimer's?

15 answers | Last updated: Mar 28, 2015
annjen asked...

My husband has alzheimers and he withdrew and cancelled our checking account and I can not find the funds. I found an account from the same bank for a new account and a savings account but without my name. I have a power of attorney but the bank will not tell me anything. He went to the bank without my knowledge took keys to car. I was in total panic because I had no idea where he was and how he got the keys. What good is a power of attorney if I can't use it. The bank said and I quote "He will have to come with you and give written consent that you have power of attorney and he will have to sign a power of attorney for us. This bank knows his condition and have in writting any changes he tries to make they are to call me prior to. Also same bank notorized the power of attorney. If anyone could help I would appreciate it. Thank you


Caring.com User - Barbara Kate Repa
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Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in...
71% helpful
Barbara Kate Repa answered...

You know that what the bank is doing is frustrating, but it may also be illegal: bank authorities are legally responsible to honor powers of attorney that have taken effect See also:
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unless there is a fatal flaw such as a forged signature.

But you will want to at least try and try again to get the bank employees' cooperation in honoring the power of attorney before going through the added time and expense of hiring a lawyer for help.

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 and policies fly in the face of reality, requiring that the principal must sign the document in front of a bank employee. The reasoning behind this is to make sure the document is authentic"”which is a good and genuine concern.

The path of least resistance would be to have your husband sign the bank's document. If this is not feasible, then you will need to be more 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 and any doctor's certification of your husband's mental condition"”along with the common sense argument that the power of attorney is necessary precisely because your husband is not able to do what they ask: Provide meaningful consent.

The threat"”or actuality"”of moving any accounts you have to another institution may also speak loudly and help nudge the bank employees to do the right thing.


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annjen answered...

Thank you very much for your time. I am trying to get the bank to do as you advised. However, today he went to the bank again and changed the accounts. If he knew what he was signing I wouldn"t mind signing at the bank but he does not know what he would be signing that should tell them something. Thank you again Ann


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PatP3005 answered...

Thanks for this information Barbara. Especially pointing out that not honoring the POA is illegal. I ran into the same situation with an investment house where my mom's funds were located. They wouldn't honor the POA. They said it had to be THEIR form. Fortunately she was able to sign it, even though she was confused and didn't understand why she had to or what she was signing.


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CA-Claire answered...

I echo what Barbara Repa said. Speak with the bank manager only. Point out that the bank notary notarized the document. Once you are able to get the funds, move it to another bank, and ask them to hold the statements at the bank for pickup by you, or go to a Mailbox place and pay for a box to have the bank mail things to.

It will be tough, but you have got to get tougher. Also, if your husband is not to drive, get tougher about where you keep the car keys.


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dollvintage answered...

Annjen I feel your pain. Dad passed in June and I have the sole responsibility for the family trust and Mom's POA, I have faxed it to BC/BS 3 times still no cooperation. The run around at the banks to get Dad's accounts into the trust took 2-3 hours at each location. Their accountant explained that since the Patriot Act they assume you are a terrorist until proven otherwise.

I had a copy of the trust, they wanted the original, I had the section 17 paperwork reduction copies they wanted the entire trust (hundreds of pages). I had my attorney on the phone (at $250/hr) finally at the 3rd hour I lost it, they decided they had enough information to do the work.

Perseverance will pay off...you should be asking the bank manager why they changed the account to a single owner when it was joint, without your approval or signature...keep turning the error/action back on them.


faith75 answered...

It seems to me that you should immediately have your husband evaluated by a qualified psychologist/psychiatrist who will then give you a written report. That report along with your power of attorney should give you the power you need to get cooperation from any bank.


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frena answered...

i've been researching this issue and talking with bank managers to do an article on this, since i already know it's a big problem for families. apparently, this is not federally controlled and each state has its own special requirements and each bank has their own requirements. sometimes they want specific language used and so on. sometimes a dr's letter is not regarded as legally sufficient. the bank managers suggested to me that an elder law lawyer should be brought into the situation to get things done. this is a national crisis right now, that spouses and family members of those with dementia are being locked out of resources essential for use. the banks managers i spoke to said the real issue is that their main legal charge is to safeguard the moneys of the person with dementia (if they are the main signatory) against possible predatory behavior on the part of family members. that's why the suggestion of getting a local lawyer to help and i believe it could well be a free service in many localities. everyone agrees the situation is absurd. no national attention is yet being paid to this. so maybe see a lawyer (it need not be hugely expensive) and absolutely contact your senators and congress people. good luck with this difficult situation made even more so.


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CA-Claire answered...

Thank you frena for your suggestions. One of the problems that annjen may be facing is that her husband is the one with dementia. Unfortunately, even though we are in the 21st century, the man is still usually considered to be the 'main signatory' on accounts.

It all gets down to lawyers, and legal papers. Push hard enough with your power of attorney, with the supplemental Dr's letters which are usually required to activate the POA in the case of a medical condition. If the Bank Manager does not stand up and pay attention - ask for the name and number of the Regional Bank Manager, and keep going up the chain.


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sandbar answered...

I have found that it is a case of finding the right person at the financial instuition, one who has the authority to make a decision. Not sure which state you live in; however, many states have the policy that drivers licenses can be confiscated. Check to see if you can anonomously notify the Dept of Motor Vehicles by e-mail or I had the doctor sign a letter stating that due to alzheimers/dementia the license should be suspended and an ID card be issued. Good Luck.


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annjen answered...

Thanks to everyone for your help. I did get it taken ccare of today. Had POA recorded at court house and the bank had no choice. They did talk to their legal department. All the info was on their computer re his POA back in 2006. The bank was SUN TRUST. However, my husband is not aware of what I have done so there will be some fallout. I am locking the car keys up and when he wants them I am going to tell him I have errands to run and take him. Again there is going to be fallout but I am going to stay at this. I hope anyone who is going thru what I am will get some help because I am flying blind. I did talk to bank manager. She is the notary on the POA. Her remark was yes that is my signature but I didn't know what I was notorizing. Thks again annjen


Lainy answered...

Dear AnnJen: I sympathize with what is happening to you because it reminds me of something I went through with my own husband. I worked for a bank for 16 years and Barbara is right about speaking with the manager. As far, as your husband goes-the way he keeps taking the keys and doing as he pleases I would be cracking down on him-pronto! I would be taking his car to a trusted mechanic and asking what you could disable under the hood to stop the car from being able to drive it and then after you get home do exactly that! Practice it first while you are there at the shop and tell them why you are doing it. Or hide the keys but just make sure you don't hide them so well that you can't find them.I've done that before and it made me feel like I had altzheimers! Oh, and I would most definitely be either going to another branch of that bank to do business or taking my business elsewhere. Good Luck and God Bless, Lainie


Gybo answered...

The issue with financial institutions is born from anti terrorism and identity theft protocol. The institution has an obligation to protect the customer and the company. Unfortunately these policies are usually cumbersome and not easily spread through the system so every employee knows everything about them. Another issue could be that your husband asked the bank to exclude you (either specifically or by stating no one other than he have access). They would have been acting with due diligence under that situation. An institution is not allowed to even verify to the public that someone is a customer under privacy laws.

The driving issue is tougher. With my grandfather we made it illegal for him to drive. It went like this. 1. A doctor wrote a letter stating it was unsafe for him to drive due to eyesight and dementia. 2. The Secretary of State revoked his Driver's license. 3. When he refused to listen by taking the car we called the police and explained the situation. They warned him that driving would at the least cost him money in fines, lawyers etc if he got caught and jail time if he had an accident and someone got hurt. 4. We hid the keys.

Eventually the dementia became to pronounced and he didn't have a desire to drive.


annjen answered...

Thank you Lainy, I agree he is allowed to do as he pleases. I need to crack down on him and I trying but sometimes he wears me down. He keeps wanting the keys. Over and over. He pouts like a child. I try to make it from day to day with him. I don't argue with him that is useless. He is so paranoid. I have no idea what he will do from 1 moment to the next. Thank you again. I do appreciate your answer. aj


mom7237 answered...

To comment on bank procedures, I also, have encountered on a problem with the Bank and conflicting DPOA issues.
I have contacted the Dept of Treasury, OCC. WWW.helpwithmybank.gov. Be prepared to write letters and submit documentation and wait. I am on my 3rd rebuttal with them. However, they do respond back to you. You may have good results. Good Luck.


georgiacaregiver answered...

The financial institutions here in Georgia pushed through legislation that supports not honoring a Durable Power of Attorney. Each institution requires it's own FInancial Power of Attorney. The language seems identical to the language in the DPOA. The banks/credit unions don't want to be sued. it is their bottom line they are worried about, not the customer. Its naive to even think that.