This blog was written by Suzanne Singh
A Power of Attorney is a document that can bestow a wide range of powers to a named party or parties (the Attorney) by an individual (the Donor).
POAs may be special or limited in their scope, or enduring in nature where they continue beyond the mental incapacity of the Donor. This blog deals with enduring POAs where the Donor can no longer act for themselves due to mental or physical incapacity, and the Attorney must take on the responsibilities for the Donor’s financial affairs, usually starting with their bank accounts.
As an employee of a trust company there are many times when we have to act in our fiduciary capacity as true and lawful Attorney for a client. When a POA is invoked we take several steps to ensure all of the client’s assets are accounted for and protected, their income stream continues seamlessly, and their bills and other obligations continue to be paid in a timely manner. A person’s bank accounts are the vehicles for most day-to-day transactions.
One of the first things the trust company will do is contact the various financial institutions where the client’s assets are held. A notarial copy of the POA document should be provided to each institution to accompany all requests – made in your capacity as Attorney – for statements and/or account proceeds. If it is possible a letter of direction signed by the Donor invoking the POA is useful, particularly if the POA is dated some time ago. In theory, providing this should be sufficient to have the institution comply with your request however you may find that it’s not always that simple.
Say your client has savings accounts at three different banks in town and you write each branch requesting that they provide statements, change the client’s address to c/o your office, close out the account and provide a draft for proceeds. One bank complies within a week, providing a draft and all requested information (great!). Another bank contacts you and says before they can comply you must attend at their branch in person and provide your date of birth and photo ID (but wait! it’s the trust company named as the Attorney, not the employee!) Yet another bank seems to regard your request as suspicious and informs you that they’ve sent your request to their legal department for review.
It can be frustrating when encountering roadblocks while trying to get your client’s financial ducks in a row. An enduring POA may not often seen by many bank branch staff and they may struggle to deal with your request. Taking a little time to explain can move your request along, build understanding and result in better client service down the road. A quick phone call to answer questions and alleviate uncertainties can go a long way, and your request may get turned around that same day.
Be as specific and thorough as possible in your initial written request, ensure to provide that notarial copy of the POA, and invite the branch to contact you if they have any questions. If necessary make a follow up phone call to the individual handling the request. Helping the bank staff work through any uncertainties is a worthwhile investment of time for everyone concerned.