Complaints to Ombudsman over Powers of Attorney double in five years
The number of complaints to the Financial Ombudsman over powers of attorney have more than doubled over the past five years.
In total, there were 79 complaints upheld in 2015 with the banking sector responsible for 61 of those.
This compares to 35 upheld in 2010 with the banking sector responsible for 30. Complaints were also held up against insurance providers, pensions and other investment.
Two complains have also been upheld over payment protection insurance, one in 2015 and one in 2013.
According to Nockolds Solicitors, this is down to a simple lack of training when it comes to the powers of attorney for rank and file bank staff and can cause significant distress for bereaved families as well as financial costs.
Sarah Locker, Senior Solicitor in Wills, Probate and Tax & Trusts team at Nockolds said: “Staff at financial institutions often lack the training to deal with powers of attorney. In many cases staff simply fail to understand what rights a power of attorney gives. This can lead to delays in processing transactions, which can cost families money and cause significant distress.”
“We are advising attorneys who have been told by investment managers that they can no longer manage donors’ investments on a discretionary basis. Some discretionary investment managers will liaise with attorneys but others refuse to do so. The lack of consistency can be frustrating.”
“Inconsistency in how financial institutions deal with powers of attorney can be widespread even within the same institution. Different staff in the same financial institution have been known to ask attorneys to write letters, obtain documents from the Court of Protection or ask elderly relatives to visit a branch in person before executing an instruction. It can vary considerably depending on who you speak to and on what day.”
“There is no legal reason why financial institutions should refuse to recognise a properly constituted power of attorney. Appointed attorneys have the same powers as the persons they are acting for, but all too often financial institutions take a different view.”
“Financial institutions have become increasingly jittery post-crisis. The focus is very much on compliance and ensuring that the proper checks are made to prevent fraud. That’s fine but it must to be balanced against the needs of attorneys to perform their duties.”