If I have power of attorney for my mother, does she need to be with me to close credit card and other financial accounts?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother is in an assisted living facility because she is no longer able to care for her physical and financial needs. I have power of attorney for her and need to begin closing her credit card and other accounts. Is it necessary to have her with me to do this, or can I contact the companies myself, providing them with a copy of the POA? What is the best/easiest way to go about this?

Expert Answer

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.

If your mother has appointed you the agent in her power of attorney, you should not need to have her with you when you close the accounts; that's one of the reasons people give someone a power of attorney—to assist them when they can't do things themselves.

However, while this is true under the law, the easiest thing to do would be to have your mother accompany you to the banks if she is able. That way, the banks can’t refuse to take the requested action. This sort of defeats the reason for having a power of attorney in the first place, but you asked for the easiest way.

If it’s too difficult for your mother to accompany you, write a letter for her. If she can sign her name, then have her sign the letter. Either bring the letter to the bank or mail it, return receipt requested. The bank should send a check for any remaining funds, payable to your mother.

When dealing with credit card companies, it is easiest to close an account if you call the customer service representative with your mother present in the room. Ask her to tell the representative that it’s okay to speak with you; otherwise, he or she would likely claim that the privacy laws prevent them from talking to you directly about your mother's account. Then tell them your mother wants the account canceled.