Posted on 25.2.16 by Tasoula Addison
The number of official complaints in relation to Powers of Attorney to the Financial Ombudsman Service have more than doubled in the last five years. Back in 2010 there were 71 complaints but 2015 saw 178 complaints made – the highest number on record.
Many of the complaints related to staff at banks and other financial institutions who made it difficult for the attorney to act on behalf of their elderly parents or family members whose accounts they were rightfully trying to operate. The range of inappropriate service differed from company to company but also within companies where many staff had varying ranges of knowledge.
Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) can be particularly case sensitive and need to be handled carefully. An LPA is drawn up by an individual – the donor – who still has full mental capacity at the time. The donor nominates a person to have legal power over their affairs if something should happen in the future. When officially registered by the Office of the Public Guardian, the attorney can act on their behalf and in the donor’s best interests. Banks and other financial institutions have a legal obligation to honour an LPA and deal with the attorney for someone else’s account.
Why the increase in complaints?
In most cases in boils down to a lack of training. This isn’t an excuse however, as delays in processing transactions and unnecessary proofs and paperwork can cause both distress and financial costs. This doesn’t mean that such complaints can’t be prevented in the future though.
Many staff at banks and other institutions don’t fully understand the exact rights an LPA gives to an attorney. Problems occur, as do complaints, when cases are handled badly and attorneys are dealt with incorrectly and are made to do extra work and jump through unnecessary hoops, which they shouldn’t have to.
How to prevent complaints?
Disputes and complaints can be averted with proper training and awareness, which is something we believe in strongly as a company. One of our Partners here at Gorvins, Christine Thornley, was Highly Commended at the Law Society Excellence Awards for her campaign work tackling the national crisis on how the financial industry handles Powers of Attorney. Unfortunately, looking at the new figures, it doesn’t seem like her expert advice has been taken on-board by everyone.
The right training and guidance can:
- Explain exactly what an attorney can or can’t do
- Restore confidence to banking professionals giving staff the knowledge to deal with attorneys
- Prevent inconsistencies within a company and make sure all staff are trained to the same high level
Christine worked tirelessly to pioneer the introduction of training workshops and filmed a video for the banking sector. Our Wills, Trusts and Probate team also hosted free advice sessions for the public to educate them on the importance of planning for the future.
If you’d like to speak to me or a member of our team in relation to making a Lasting Power of Attorney, give us a call on 0343 507 5151.