Can Banks Do Power of Attorney Forms for You?

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

Can Banks Do Power of Attorney Forms for You?

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

A power of attorney allows you, called the principal, to appoint another person, called the agent, to act on your behalf. This legal document is particularly useful if you become incapacitated, unavailable, or otherwise unable to manage your own affairs. If you are seeking assistance for creating a power of attorney, a bank can help you with the forms.

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Creating a New Power of Attorney Through Your Bank

Upon request, many banks will provide their power of attorney form and may even help you complete it, but it still must be signed by the principal. Once the form is complete, the agent you designated on the form can pay bills, withdraw and deposit funds, and manage savings accounts on your behalf at that bank.

Unfortunately, in most cases, the bank's form only grants your agent powers to manage your financial affairs with that specific bank. For other institutions, you will need to create and execute a separate general power of attorney.

Using a Power of Attorney at a Bank

If you are an agent and need to access the principal's bank accounts as part of your duties, you might be in for a headache. Banks are often difficult to deal with when it comes to accepting outside power of attorney documents.

It is not uncommon for a bank to make an agent jump through additional hoops before providing access to the principal's accounts. The bank may require the agent to go through various loopholes, such as providing identification, supporting documentation, signature samples for the principal and agent, and information about the principal. It may even require the principal's signature on the bank's own power of attorney form, which is impossible if the principal is already incapacitated.

If you cannot get the bank to honor your power as an agent, you need to seek a court order to confirm your authority and get the bank to honor the the document.

Avoiding Issues with Banks

In most cases, when a bank requires additional forms or rejects a power of attorney, it is only trying to protect its account holder from unauthorized parties attempting to handle its client's finances. However, this undercuts the very purpose of a power of attorney, which is to allow another person to act on the principal's behalf. To try to resolve these issues, several states have enacted laws that penalize banks if they fail to honor any of these valid documents.

To avoid these common issues with banks, the principal should first contact each of their financial institutions to determine whether they will recognize an outside power of attorney or if the institution requires completion of their own form or any other additional steps. It is also a good practice to have this document notarized and signed by independent witnesses, even if not required by state law.

Despite the hurdles banks sometimes put up, a power of attorney is a valuable financial and estate planning tool. If you have only one bank you'd like to complete this legal document with, then having that institution help you with the forms is a great route to go. However, if you are wanting to have your finances managed at more than just that bank, then a general power of attorney form is your best option.

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