New guidance has been issued to all UK bank and building societies to help make life easier for people managing an account for someone who is unable to look after their own financial affairs.
The guidance has been jointly developed by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), the British Bankers Association (BBA) and the Building Societies Association (BSA), working with the Law Society, the Alzheimer’s Society, Solicitors for the Elderly and Age UK.
It means that, for the first time, banks and building societies should be able to follow a uniform approach in supporting third party mandate holders.
Different types of authority can be used to allow a third party access to a customer’s account, ranging from simple instructions to the bank or building society from the customer themselves, to more formal arrangements such as Powers of Attorney and appointments by the Court of Protection.
The guidance will help bank and building society staff – who have often appeared to struggle to react to and advise on such arrangements in an appropriate manner – to recognise the different types of authority and set out the process needed to verify and act upon them. It will also help staff to balance the need to protect customers from fraud against the need to provide them with continued access to their account via an appropriate person.
Every year, thousands of people have to arrange to run an account on behalf of a loved one. Since 2007, almost 537,000 Lasting Powers of Attorney for the management of property and financial affairs have been registered in the UK.
In 2012, there were around 800,000 people in the UK suffering from dementia, a number forecast to rise to more than a million by 2021. Andrew Chidgey, director of external affairs at the Alzheimer’s Society said: “The experience of having dementia can be overwhelming enough without the prospect of not being able to access the money that you have saved for all of your life.
“When people aren’t able to operate an account themselves it’s crucial that we enable a trusted family member to help to manage their finances.“
Alan Eccles, public guardian and chief executive of the OPG, said: “The guidance will help staff in banks and building societies to recognise and react appropriately to Lasting Powers of Attorney, Deputyship Orders and other third party management arrangements.”
Anthony Browne, chief executive of the BBA, said: “The new guidance will help banks and building societies provide the right service with the least possible stress and inconvenience to the customer at what can be a very difficult and traumatic time.”
A copy of the guide – titled Guidance for people wanting to manage a bank account for someone else – can be downloaded free from a number of websites, including those of the BBA, the BSA and the Ministry of Justice.
Putting in place a Lasting Power of Attorney at an early stage – for example, when making or updating a will – can save a great deal of difficulty for loved ones in the future. At the same time, seeking legal advice is always a sensible step, particularly if the person concerned has substantial or complex assets.
For more information on Lasting Powers of Attorney, please visit our website or contact one of our fee earners.