Q&A The importance of having a power of attorney if you have a joint bank account

Q. I have a joint account with my wife at a local bank. Unfortunately her health is deteriorating and she is no longer able to sign cheques or visit the bank to give instructions concerning the account. I am a little worried that my ability to use the account might be restricted because of these problems, but as it is a joint account I assume that I can carry on using it normally for as long as I am able to. Is this right?

A. It has historically been the case that in the circumstances you describe the other joint account holder can carry on using the account normally. However there has been some press coverage concerning a high street bank who have taken the decision that if they become aware that one of the holders of a joint account has become mentally incapable, that they will treat this as notice to cancel the joint authority on the account for either party to sign on the account or be able to withdraw funds (this would not apply to existing standing orders or direct debits) until either an Attorney or Deputy is appointed. This would mean that apart from the existing arrangements the account would be frozen. This might cause you some difficulty. I would suggest that you give thought to creating Lasting Powers of Attorney (if you have not already done so) before either you or your wife become more poorly, so that you or your wife's Attorney could assist in dealing with issues with the bank. Without such authority it is easy to see that the continuing operation of the joint account could be impossible. I would recommend you seek the advice of a suitably qualified solicitor to discuss Lasting Powers of Attorney.

 

Jo Wild, Solicitor

 

*This article was previously published in the Stamford Mercury