Q&A: What to do when your bank gets picky about accepting a power of attorney

Dear Liz: My husband’s brother had a stroke and is now incapacitated. My husband needs to take over his finances. The bank will not accept the durable power of attorney that they set up 14 years ago because it is “too old.” Another bank asked me if it was set up less than six months ago, because that would avoid problems. How can you do the right thing if there are so many obstacles?

Answer: Banks and other financial institutions have gotten so persnickety about accepting powers of attorney that some states have passed laws forcing them to do so — and yet people still report having problems, even in those states!

Many institutions want you to use their own forms, which may not be possible once someone is incapacitated. Even if the person is willing to fill out the form before the fact, using a financial institution’s power of attorney can create problems if the language in those forms contradicts the person’s other estate planning documents. Then there’s the sheer hassle factor, especially if the person has accounts at multiple banks and brokerages.

You may be able to break through this logjam by hiring an attorney to contact the bank. You can get referrals to lawyers experienced in this issue from the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.

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