I get lots of emails from SavvyWoman users who are dealing with their parents’ financial affairs and what they have in common is that it’s not straightforward. A power of attorney gives you the right to make financial decisions for someone else who can’t. So you’d think that once you have one, it would be a fairly simple process, but some banks don’t let you open online accounts if you have a power of attorney and others ask for a lot of evidence of ID.
Proving you have power of attorney
When I started looking into this, two building societies (Nationwide and Skipton) ask for original power of attorney certificates. After I queried it with them, they both said that they would accept certified copies of POA.
Never send in an original power of attorney certificate. If the bank loses it you can’t ask for a duplicate, instead, according to the Office of Public Guardian, which registers powers of attorney, you’d have to re-register – at a cost of £35 and it would take several weeks. Some banks say they’d rather see the original certificate than a certified copy, but the Office of Public Guardian says they both have equal weight in law.
SAVVY TIP: Personally, I would only take an original certificate if I was going to a branch and could bring the certificate back with me. When you register a power of attorney you can request certified copies and I’d recommend that you get as many as your relative has accounts (plus a couple for spare). It’s cheaper than getting certified copies (which you have to do at a solicitor) after the event.
Why get power of attorney?
If you don’t know why you might need power of attorney, the reality is that if you were to lose mental capacity, through dementia, another illness or through an accident, your relatives would have to apply to the Court of Protection for permission to handle your finances. There’s a guide to setting up a power of attorney elsewhere on the site.
Banks and building societies
This is a guide to the type of account you can open and the process you’ll have to go through if you have power of attorney and want to open a savings account.
Which accounts are open to someone with power of attorney? It registers a Power of Attorney on all savings accounts other than a Child Trust Fund (which must be managed by the parent or legal guardian).
What ID is needed? New customers must provide the same ID documents as any other new customer. Existing customers don’t need to provide ID documentation but Nationwide may ask for evidence that you have accounts with them. Here’s a list of ID documents Nationwide will accept.
Proof of Power of Attorney? If you’re opening a new account Nationwide originally said you’ll need to provide the original power of attorney certificate and two forms of ID for yourself and the person you have POA for. See below for their response. If you’re getting POA on an existing account you’ll need two forms of ID for yourself and the POA certificate.
SAVVY TIP: I asked Nationwide if they really need original certificates. Their own internal documents show that certified copies are acceptable (although they prefer originals) but their external website refers to ‘original certificates’. The bottom line is that they will accept certified copies and, unless you’re applying in a branch, that’s what I’d do.
Which accounts are open to someone with power of attorney? All savings accounts.
What ID is needed? If the relative you’re getting POA for already banks with Sainsbury’s bank, you don’t need any ID for them. If not, you’d need to provide two forms of ID for them. To manage an account on someone else’s behalf, you need to apply for Power of Attorney authorisation.
SAVVY TIP: If you give the bank an email address when the account has been opened it will register you for online banking and send out a username and an access code letter automatically.
Which accounts are open to someone with power of attorney? New customers can open an Instant Savings Account. Customers who have a current account or savings account can change the account name to show that they have responsibility to operate it e.g. ‘Mr Smith (appointed receiver / deputy) Receiver for Mrs Jones (protected person). If a customer has a current account and needs a savings account then an instant savings account could be opened.
SAVVY TIP: The interest rate on the instant access account is pretty poor at 0.1%.
What ID is needed? As long as the power of attorney is registered so there’s a registration stamp on the certificate the bank would only need you to produce standard ID.
SAVVY TIP: If you have a power of attorney but don’t have a stamp of the Office of Public Guardian or the Court of Protection, you’d need to produce ID documents for the person you have POA for. New and existing customers have to provide the same ID.
What ID is needed? RBS/NatWest say they follow the British Bankers’ Association guidelines. So you’ll need proof of the name and address of the account holder (if they’re not already a customer) and proof of the name and address of the person who’s acting under the POA.
SAVVY TIP: Documents to prove identity include a passport or driving licence for someone’s name and utility bills for their address. Otherwise, an entitlement letter from the DWP confirming that you’re in receipt of a pension, or a letter from an appropriate person (for example, the senior nurse of a care home) are OK.
Proof of power of attorney? You’ll need to provide evidence of power of attorney. The bank will accept certified copies of power of attorney as well as the original certificate.
SAVVY TIP: New cash ISAs can’t be opened by someone who has a POA, although if your relative already has a cash ISA you can carry on paying into it on their behalf (as long as your relative has paid into it within the last tax year).
What ID is needed? Both you and the person you have POA for will need to provide ID and proof of address.
Proof of power of attorney? The bank will also need a certified copy or original of the POA certificate.
SAVVY TIP: If the person you have power of attorney for is an existing customer (say they have a current account) you may still need to provide ID documents for them as Barclays may not have recorded them on their system when the account was opened. Strangely, the longer they’ve banked with Barclays the more likely you are to have to provide their ID. You may ‘only’ need to provide a debit card but the bank says you should bring a driver’s license or passport ‘just in case’.
Which accounts are open to someone with power of attorney? All accounts can be opened with an enduring or lasting power of attorney. However they can only be operated by a branch or by phone.
What ID is needed?
Applications downloaded from the internet and posted to Santander will be processed and the POA added (as long as the correct ID and legal documents are included). You can find a list of the ID that’s acceptable on the website.
Proof of power of attorney? The bank says it prefers original certificates of power of attorney but will accept certified copies.
Which accounts are open to someone with power of attorney? All accounts can be opened with an enduring or lasting power of attorney.
What ID is needed? ID documents are the same as any other customer applying for a savings account (you can find a list of the documents here).
SAVVY TIP: If the document says that accounts must be managed jointly (as opposed to ‘jointly and severally’ when any one of the attorneys can open it) the bank would have to register both attorneys and couldn’t register one without the other.
Proof of power of attorney? The bank says that if you’re applying for an account face-to-face, you can bring original certificates of POA or certified copies. If you’re not applying for an account face-to-face you should only send certified copies through the post.
SAVVY TIP: I’m pleased that Co-operative bank spells out that you should only send certified copies of a POA certificate through the post. Others should be this clear.
The Post Office
Which accounts are open to someone with a power of attorney? All Post Office savings accounts. To apply for an Online Saver the customer must complete a hard copy application, which you can download and print off.
What ID is needed? The Post Office has to check your name and address. In most cases they say they can do this electronically and through background checks — however where these checks are not successful you have to provide original or certified copies of for example, your passport, driving licence, bank statement or utility bills. Where the relative or the person with the POA is already a customer (and where their name and address have not changed) the Post Office will try and use existing ID details.
Proof of Power of Attorney?To set up a POA on an account the Post Office must receive the original or certified copy of the POA.
Which accounts are open to someone with power of attorney? All savings accounts can be opened with someone with a power of attorney, however, online accounts can only be opened and administered via the post (you have to download a form from the website and send it to HQ).
What ID is needed? Two forms of ID
Proof of power of attorney? Either the original or a solicitor certified copy of the POA document.
Skipton building society
Which accounts are open to someone with power of attorney? All branch based accounts can be operated by power of attorney. ISAs are restricted to POA related to mental or physical incapacity only.
SAVVY TIP: Skipton says that it doesn’t let attorneys open accounts online because of the increased risk of fraudulent of unauthorised transactions with power of attorney accounts.
What ID is needed? Existing customer with a new POA: two forms of ID if the account is opened face to face but three if it’s by post. If neither you nor the attorney have an account with the Skipton you’ll need to provide ID for both of you.
Proof of power of attorney? You need to provide the original POA document or certified copies.
SAVVY TIP: I was originally told by Skipton building society that only original certificates were acceptable, but when I queried this they confirmed that they would also accept certified copies of a POA.
Which accounts are open to someone with power of attorney? Any savings account including online accounts. Someone with power of attorney could also access their elderly relative’s personal bank account online if they have the appropriate proof of POA.
What ID is needed? If the relative you have POA for isn’t existing customer, you’d have to provide their passport, driving licence etc and a utility bill or bank statement. If your relative can’t visit the bank certified copies are acceptable. You, as the person with POA, would have to provide ID and address verification documents as well.
Proof of power of attorney? If an Enduring Power of Attorney is stamped by the Office of the Public Guardian within the last four months, you don’t need to provide ID documents for the person you’re opening the account for. If more than one attorney is appointed, the account must be opened for both of them.
SAVVY TIP: If you take over a relative’s online account, you’ll get a security number which over-rides theirs so they won’t be able to access or use the account.
Which accounts are open to someone with power of attorney? All savings accounts (but no new borrowing is allowed).
SAVVY TIP: Be aware that if you don’t already have an account with First Direct, you can only manage any accounts in writing. All requests must be sent in writing. If you already have a First Direct account you can manage your relative’s account by phone.
What ID is needed? If your relative already banks with First Direct, they wouldn’t need any ID for them if you wanted to open another account. You would need to prove your own identity (sending originals) from the list: utility bill, bank statement or credit card statement (must be dated within the last three months) full UK driving licence (the card and the paper part must be sent together).
SAVVY TIP: First Direct says it does try and be flexible and recently opened an account for someone where the elderly relative had been in hospital for seven years and who had no ID at all.
Halifax/Lloyds TSB/Bank of Scotland/ BM Savings
Which accounts are open to someone with power of attorney? All savings accounts, although you can’t operate an ISA without a doctor’s certificate stating that the power of attorney has been taking out because of lack of mental capacity. Once the savings account is opened, it can be operated online.
What ID is needed? You would need to provide the same ID as other customers opening an account. There’s a list of acceptable documents here.
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