Posted on May 29, 2017 by David Severide in Featured, Wills & Estate Law In this blog I discuss why the bank won’t listen to you when you are trying to pay bills on behalf of a family member, in this example your Dad, who has become incapacitated, either physically or mentally or both. Just at a time when you are stressed out with the sudden illness of a close family member, and you need a welcoming face at the bank to assist you to take care of some urgent bills for your Dad, you are met with the (unsympathetic) response “ I cant help you unless you have a joint account or power of attorney”. You reply “But I have Dad’s deposit/cheque book and I can prove I am his daughter and you know me cuz I bank here too……” but you can tell that your pleas are falling on deaf ears.
Why did this happen? What can you do to prevent it happening in the future? First the Why – as Dad’s legal rights have to be respected by the bank and others, and his money has to be protected from unauthorized access, only Dad or someone Dad has legally authorized to act on his behalf has the legal authority to pay Dad’s bills or conduct other financial or legal transactions on his behalf.. What can be done to avoid future hassles? Dad, before he becomes incapacitated (timing is everything!), can appoint you or someone else that he trusts with his money to be his Attorney under a legal document called a Power of Attorney. This document, which we lawyers often refer to as a POA or EPOA, is relatively simple to prepare and legally sign, is not expensive (we charge under $300 for a basic POA) and is a powerful legal crowbar to force the bank to allow you to do what you thought you should have been able to do in the first place! What happens if I left it too late and now Dad can’t sign legal documents? Don’t worry – there is (almost) always a solution for most legal problems in the world, but as the problem gets bigger, it costs more to fix! If Dad didn’t properly plan for the day he might become incapacitated by preparing a POA, you can still get the bank to listen to you by obtaining a court order appointing you as Dad’s legal guardian or “Committee” ( I know this is a weird name and sounds like you have to make some new friends, but ignore the legalese and pronounce it like “comma tea” and you’ll be fine!). A Committee can (in most cases) make any decision on Dad’s behalf, be it financial, legal, or medical and the bank will certainly adhere to your court order to allow you to take care of the bills! The downside (there is always a downside) to this process is that you will be stuck in limbo for about two months while all the necessary paperwork is prepared, signed, filed, served on family members and the Public Guardian of BC (a topic for a future blog), and finally spoken to in open court, and your legal bill will be substantially larger than the one your Dad would have paid to have a POA done in advance. So the old adage applies in legal matters as it does in ordinary life – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (sorry not to have converted that to metric, but it totally ruins the wordflow). Stay tuned for Part 2 of this Blog topic, where I again tackle the banks but this time Dad has passed on and your POA or Committee order has now died with him!