A Power of Attorney Is Not Always Enough


Everyone should get a general durable power of attorney. Everyone should also realize that they may need to do more than just that to protect their financial interests in the event of incapacitation.

A general durable power of attorney is a necessary part of any estate plan. In the event you become incapacitated due to age or illness the power of attorney gives someone else the ability to handle your affairs and make sure that your expenses are met.

However, increasingly banks and other financial institutions are refusing to honor general durable powers of attorney as the New York Times discusses in "Finding Out Your Power of Attorney Is Powerless."

The issue for the banks is that they fear being held liable if they accept the power of attorney document and it turns out that the person given access to a financial account is acting improperly. When someone shows up with a power of attorney and requests access to an account, the bank does not necessarily have a way to determine that the account holder is actually incapacitated.

Because of this concern, many financial institutions will not accept a standard power of attorney form and instead insist that their own house forms be used.

There are a couple of things you can do about this.

Before you become incapacitated, ask financial institutions that you do business with what their requirements are. If they require their own forms, then fill them out.

If you are the person who is seeking to use the power of attorney for an incapacitated relative and a bank refuses to honor it, then talk to an elder law attorney. An attorney can normally get any issues cleared up without having to go to court.

Reference: New York Times (May 6, 2016) "Finding Out Your Power of Attorney Is Powerless."

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