As POA, do I have access to past financial statements?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My sibling is the power of attorney for my dad. She is going to try and get access of my dads past financial statements and activity. Is she able to get past information on his accounts.

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.

Once your sister becomes legally empowered as the agent for your dad"”most likely, when he is no longer considered mentally competent"”she will then become responsible for managing your dad's finances in his best interests.

Of course, that means she will be able to write checks and manage his checking and savings accounts. But she may also find, as many agents do, that your dad's management of his own finances had become confused and confusing for some time. So part of acting in his best interests may require her to do a little sleuthwork into the past to get the accounts balanced"”or even to be sure that your dad was not being bilked by anyone who viewed him as an easy target.

Even though your sister will be legally entitled to see the past records"”at least enough of them to clear up any present mess"”depending on what person she deals with at which financial institution, she may need to do a bit of fancy lipwork to get access. She should bring a copy of the power of attorney with her to the financial institution, along with evidence that it is in effect, such as a note from your dad's doctor verifying that he is no longer mentally competent.

And to be on the safest side, she might also come prepared with the argument that she needs access to past financial records for tax reasons or to authenticate past payments and purchases.

Perversely, it can sometimes be easier to deal with machines than humans. So your sister might find it easiest to access your dad's accounts online"”a service the bank or other financial institution should be willing to initiate. Many banks give customers online access to statements and other account activity reaching back for several years.