Does a Bank Have to Have a Written Letter of Power of Attorney to Access One's Account?

by Heather Frances J.D. Google

A financial power of attorney gives someone else the authority to act in your place, usually including the authority to access your bank account. Bank policies about powers of attorney differ significantly from one bank to another, and state laws also vary. Generally, a bank will require your agent to provide a copy of the power of attorney.

Ready to appoint a power of attorney? Get Started Now

Contents

A power of attorney for finances must include language granting your agent the authority to access a bank account or other financial account. Your power of attorney can give your agent authority to access all accounts in your name or just one. However, bank policies vary, and your bank may restrict your agent’s access even when presented with a power of attorney.

Documentation

Your bank likely will require a copy of your power of attorney before it will give your agent any access to your accounts. Though your bank may accept any power-of-attorney format, some banks require that you use their particular power-of-attorney form. Regardless of the form you use, your agent must be identifiable in the document. For example, the bank may demand that your power of attorney list “Robert Smith” instead of “my cousin Bob.”

Letter from Attorney

Banks have the right to refuse to honor the power of attorney, particularly if the format of the power of attorney is unusual or if the power of attorney is older than those the bank officials usually see. It may help if your attorney sends a letter to the bank to explain the situation and the validity of the power of attorney.

Attorney’s Fees

If you need to get your attorney involved because the bank refuses to honor your power of attorney, it may cost you or your agent. However, North Carolina, for example, requires the bank to pay your attorney’s fees if it unreasonably refuses to accept your power of attorney. If you have to go to court to prove its validity, your bank may also have to pay those costs.