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What Happens When a Bank or Financial Institution Initially Refuses to Accept a Power of Attorney

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When the time comes that you need to use your loved one’s power of attorney you expect things will easy.  In your mind, you take the document to the bank or financial institution and they immediately start working with you.  But what happens when they don’t?  What if they refuse to accept the power of attorney or view it (and you) with suspicion?  What should you do?

It’s Them, Not You

The most important thing is to know this might happen.  It’s not a criticism of you in any way – you’ve done nothing wrong.  You merely stepped in to help your loved one whose dealing with a cognitive or physical problem preventing them from managing their own financial affairs.

Why would a bank or financial institution initially refuse to all you to use the document?  The answer has to do with fraud.  Think back to the stories you’ve heard where someone takes all of an elderly individual’s money.  Most of those situations involve a power of attorney.  Banks don’t like these stories and they don’t like their customers hurt by wrongdoers.  Because of that they view power of attorney documents – all of them – with suspicion.

It Usually Works Itself Out

In most situations the bank or financial institution will ultimately accept the document.

You might first have to deal with some internal bank policies.   In other words, you’re going to have to jump through some hoops.  They may have questions or require you to sign some other forms or they might want to send the document to their legal team so they can review it.  They may make you wait a few days before they give you access to the accounts.

The Skill of Pleasant Persistence

In most situations pleasant persistence will prevail.

Although, sometimes it might get to the point where you need help from an elder law attorney (preferably the one who drafted the document) to advocate on your behalf but that doesn’t happen often.  The attorney can often work with the bank or financial institution to answer questions and emphasize the document’s validity.


No matter what, at some point you might find yourself in this situation.  Be ready to work through it and don’t wait until the last minute – if at all possible – to present the power of attorney document to the bank.

Begin working with the bank as soon as you start helping your loved one.  That way when the time comes you need access to the accounts the bank will have already accepted and approved the power of attorney.

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