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Bank staff told how to deal with attorneys and deputies

Many solicitors managing accounts of vulnerable clients reported difficulties to Law Society

3 April 2013

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People and professionals managing the accounts of vulnerable and elderly individuals will be expected to follow a standardised procedure under new guidance published this morning.

Produced jointly by the Law Society, British Bankers' Association (BBA), Building Societies Association (BSA), and Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), the Guidance for people wanting to manage a bank account for someone else is the first standard framework of its kind, aiming to help the public, solicitors and banking personnel understand their roles and responsibilities.

"There were no uniform procedures in place, which resulted in stressful delays and difficulties, sometimes resulting in considerable hardship," said Law Society President Lucy Scott-Moncrieff.

The Law Society got involved after many solicitors who act under a power of attorney or as a deputy for clients reported problems when dealing with banks.

Public guardian and OPG chief executive Alan Eccles said the initiative was a good example of government, industry and the charity sector working together "to fix a real problem".

"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," he said.

The guidance covers various issues including situations that can range from a gradual decline in a customer's ability to handle their own financial affairs to a sudden, unforeseen event such as a stroke. It will help staff to balance the need to protect account holders from fraud against the need to provide them with continued access to their funds via an appropriate person.

Since 2007, 536,941 lasting powers of attorney have been registered in the UK to manage property and affairs, which includes financial matters.

In 2012, there were about 800,000 people in the UK suffering from dementia with this number expected to rise to more than 1 million by 2021.

Andrew Chidgey, director of external affairs at the Alzheimer's Society, which collaborated on the project, said: "With rising numbers, businesses need to make sure that people with the condition can continue to use their services by becoming friendlier for people with dementia."

Guidance is missed opportunity, says Hugh Jones

“I have read Guidance for people wanting to manage a bank account for someone else. In that respect it is a useful document.

“But in my experience, lay people take proper advice and have a suitable power of attorney or deputyship order. When they get to the bank, the staff do not know what they are dealing with.

“I thought it was going to be for bank and building society staff, not the public. We still have a potential problem. If the bank staff to whom the relevant documents are presented are no more informed, this guidance achieves nothing.

“I want to see a similar form of guidance, with specimen documents, for bank staff, so that a uniform standard of service from the banks and building societies is achieved in place of the present ‘hit and miss’ arrangements that we all have experience of.

“The subtle differences between lasting powers of attorney and enduring powers of attorney are not highlighted. All in all an opportunity missed.”

Hugh Jones is managing director of Hugh Jones Solicitors

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Vulnerable Clients