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Monday, February 14, 2011

How do I advise banks that I've been appointed Power of Attorney?

When lawyers prepare Enduring or Continuing Powers of Attorney for their clients, they have the opportunity to educate the client a bit about how the documents will be used in the future. Unfortunately, there is rarely an opportunity to educate the person appointed under the document as to how to use it.

The vast majority of individuals appointed under a family member's Power of Attorney have never been in that position before and really don't have a very good idea of how to go about things.

At some point, you're probably going to have to use the Power of Attorney at the bank that is used by the person you represent. Make an appointment with a banking officer, or if it's a very small branch, with the branch manager. Take the original Power of Attorney with you, but don't leave the original at the bank. They will want to make a photocopy of it. In some cases (particularly if they have not seen the original document themselves) they will request a notarial copy of the document.

Take two pieces of government-issued identification (driver's license, provincial I.D., social insurance card, provincial health care card, etc) and expect the bank to take a photocopy of them. The bank will check to see that your I.D. matches the name on the Power of Attorney.

The vast majority of Enduring or Continuing Powers of Attorney are "springing" documents. This means they contain a clause in the document that says that the document doesn't have any legal effect until a certain condition is met. That condition is usually that a doctor (or two doctors, or another person) has to sign a Declaration saying that the person has lost the ability to make his or her own decisions. You can't use the Power of Attorney if that Declaration is not attached. They will check for this in the bank and if the Declaration isn't there, they will refuse to honour the Power of Attorney.

Sometimes even when the Power of Attorney does have the proper Declaration in place, the bank will request a couple of days to send it to their legal department to check. This is to help prevent fraud. The people in the legal department are much more familiar with legal documents than are the banking personnel.

Don't be embarrassed to ask for help or information. If you remember that almost all others appointed under these documents are new at it too, perhaps it will be a bit easier for you to ask. Finding out your responsibilities and limitations right up front could prevent a lot of trouble in the future.

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