When one spouse suffers from dementia, the other spouse often must take over managing the couple’s finances, usually with the help of a power of attorney. But things don’t always go smoothly with financial institutions. Just ask Chicago resident Eva Kripke, who has been handling money matters since her husband, Sidney, was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia four years ago.
Acting as agent for her husband under a power of attorney, for years Ms. Kripke had been going online to check her husband’s Bank of America account and writing checks from it, until one day in April when the bank suddenly changed its security procedures and she was blocked from accessing his online account unless she supplied his Bank of America credit card number.
Because of her husband’s dementia, Ms. Kripke had torn up the credit card several years previously, but she was able to obtain the card number from her local Bank of America branch. But that wasn’t enough — the bank also wanted the security code and the expiration date, neither of which she or the bank had. Without that, even though she had all the other information about her husband’s account, not to mention his power of attorney, she could not access it online.
“[The bank employees] told me that power of attorney was not accepted for online banking,” Kripke told the Chicago Tribune‘s“What’s Your Problem?” columnist, to whom she turned for help. “It did not matter that I had been accessing my husband’s account for several years. There was no way I could have access to my husband’s online account any longer.”
Bank of America suggested Mrs. Kripke open a joint account with her husband, something her lawyer advised her not to do, saying it was better for the couple to keep their accounts separate. The bank also said she could go to her branch and get a printout of her husband’s account and even offered to have a bank employee drop one off at her house.
“That’s not satisfactory at all,” said Mrs. Kripke, who noted that the deposits and payments for her husband’s 24-hour care often require daily oversight. “I don’t want to have to rely on constantly going over there. I doubt that someone would deliver it to me and I’d feel odd asking them to do that.”
The American Bar Association Journal picked up Mrs. Kripke’s story and asked its readers if they had any suggestions for her. So far, the leading ones are: 1. report the credit card lost or stolen and get a new one, or 2. find another, more accommodating bank. It can also sometimes help to use the financial institution’s own power of attorney form, although executing a different document for every bank one has an account with can be time-consuming, and it is likely impossible in Mrs. Kripke’s case now that her husband is incompetent.
To discuss elder law issues with an attorney, please email the Elder Law Center or call 630-844-0065. The Elder Law Center is located in Aurora, IL, Kane County, in the Chicago Western Suburbs.