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

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

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a 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.

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 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.