Sunday, September 5, 2010


My parents recently decided that they no longer wanted to handle their routine finances so they turned everything over to me. This is a fairly common occurrence in families and most of the people in my generation have already had this happen to them.

My parents are a progressive pair. All the paperwork for this and future family needs was already in place. I’ve been signing on their checking account since the mid-nineties when they started traveling extensively.

Although I was a signer on the checking account, I wanted online banking access so I took my power of attorney form in and asked that my name be added to the account. What a can of worms that opened. Seems that having power of attorney is not enough. I had to have a Declination to Act form in which my parents said that they were unwilling to do the banking and had, in fact, passed that responsibility to me.

My parents immediately got the necessary forms. Everything is now as they want it. In addition, the attorney is aware that these forms will be required by this particular bank, even though the forms are not required by state law. She will be able to advise other clients who use the same bank. I don’t argue with the bank's special requirements. They are in place to protect its older customers from senior abuse and, sadly, such abuse is a real problem.

Why do I tell this story in a blog about communications? Because I realize again how important it is that we communicate with each other. This incident involved a very large bank. It would be helpful if attorneys had knowledge of this requirement so their clients would be prepared. The bank needs to communicate with the bar associations.

In addition, families must discuss their wishes for their futures. We will all grow older and may not wish or be able to handle things - particularly as life gets more complex. Fading eyesight, trembling hands, or unwillingness to drive in bad weather are all good reasons for passing the banking reins to someone else and have nothing to do with mental capacity. Paperwork should be in place and all family members should be in agreement on what will or should take place.

This is not new advice. I repeat it because I just learned again how important good communication is.