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Sunday, March 9, 2014

The bank told me to sign the bank's POA form. That's ok, right?

I recently read a very good article by Ottawa lawyer Donna Neff, which I encourage all of you to read. In the article, Ms. Neff talks about what to do if you have a Power of Attorney (POA) document already in place, but the bank asks you to sign their form of POA as well. Click here to read the article.

As Ms. Neff discusses, you don't have to sign a bank form when you already have an enduring or continuing POA in place. The POA you already have will cover your bank accounts as well as the rest of your assets. You could accidentally revoke your POA by signing the bank form.

However, I would like to point out that there are circumstances in which someone might well want to use the bank form instead of an all-encompassing POA. For example, it's very common that a parent wants help with the banking. The two most common ways that individuals respond to that situation are a) put one of their kids on the account as a joint owner, or b) sign a POA that allows the kids (or other named person) to control all of the parent's assets.

Adding a child as a joint owner when all you want is help with the banking is an absolutely terrible idea 90% of the time, but that doesn't seem to stop anyone. Signing the POA at the lawyer's office is a much better option by far, but it too has limitations. If all you want is help with the banking, is there any need to hand over control of your home, investments, cabin, and personal belongings?

There is a third option. That is, the bank POA form.

For an individual who does not yet need to hand over power over all assets and does not have an enduring or continuing POA in place, signing the bank form can work well. The bank POA form only allows access to a certain account that is chosen by you. It doesn't convey ownership or mess up your will the way adding a joint owner does. It limits your chosen person to dealing only with your one account, so you limit potential losses.

This is one of many options. If you think this would work for you, consider talking it over with an estate-planning lawyer. While the bankers have a good understanding of how the form works within their bank, they are not in a position to give you legal advice about whether this is the best option for you in the context of your whole estate. Any estate planning step you take should be considered as part of the bigger picture. It's worth it to spend a few minutes chatting with your lawyer.


  1. To avoid problems created by signing a bank’s POA, we recommend not signing any forms at the bank unless your lawyer has reviewed it first. This is especially important if you already have a signed POA document.
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    1. I agree, Sophia. The lawyer is definitely in the best position to advise you about how signing one form might affect the rest of your plans.



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