All our bank accounts are joint – we don’t need a Power of Attorney!

All our bank accounts are joint – we don’t need a Power of Attorney!

By Emily Littlehales

Making a power of attorney is a difficult service to ‘sell’. When I say sell, I can assure you that I have to grapple against the idea that I am ‘upselling’ a product to a client who has perhaps only come to see me about making a Will. I have spent many a meeting apologising for appearing to be sell further products. However, I am now much comfier with the concept that this is information that clients need to have, and is usually well received.

We see so many families who could really benefit from having a power of attorney but they didn’t know such things existed, and have since lost the opportunity to make one because it is ‘too late’.

The key to making a power of attorney – is to make them before you need them. Trying to convince clients that they need a power of attorney when they don’t need one (yes I have phrased that correctly!) is a hard sell…!

Many couples will suggest that they have joint accounts and therefore, they don’t need a power of attorney. Let’s have a look at joint accounts…

  • You may have joint bank accounts, but pensions and any other assets or commitments in your sole name cannot be dealt with. If you own a home jointly, then you may not be able to sell this without a power of attorney.
  • Couples may consider that the other can access a joint account if anything happens to their mental health, but what if that other party dies or becomes infirm themselves? Your children or other family members or loved ones would not be able to access those assets – continuity planning by way of a power of attorney is essential.
  • Some clients suggest they can simply add someone to their bank account so that they are jointly named – or they have a mandate allowing them to access the account. Firstly, the legal duties and responsibilities do not apply to this arrangement. Secondly, adding a person to a joint account generally means that in the event that one person dies, that account automatically passes to the surviving joint account holder which can cause issues and is often not the most appropriate.
  • One other little known fact is that the banks can actually restrict the amount of money withdrawn from a joint account on behalf of the account holder. This isn’t something I have ever come across I must say, but it wouldn’t be a risk I would be willing to take.

I will always advocate making a Power of Attorney, and if you have the resources, make both types – Health and Care and for Finance and Property. We don’t know what the future will hold or how our circumstances will change.

Any initial appointment with us is without obligation, it doesn’t cost anything if you want to find out more and assess what you need. Email or call us on 01352 860890.