Bank of America Says Power of Attorney Does Not Grant Access to Online Banking

May 31, 2011

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.

Responsibility for a Deceased Relative’s Debts

May 25, 2011

The loss of a loved one is tough to begin with, but if the loved one left debts behind, it can be even tougher. Family members generally should not have to pay for a decedent’s debts, but it is important to know your rights because collection agencies may target the decedent’s relatives.

Usually the loved one’s estate is responsible for paying any debts. If the estate does not have enough money, the debts will go unpaid. The debt collectors may not collect payment from relatives (unless they were co-signers or guarantors). However, if you are the spouse of the decedent, you may have responsibility for any debts that were jointly held. Depending on state law, some assets — such as a house or car — may be exempt from debt collection. To determine your responsibility, if any, please email the Elder Law Center or call 630-844-0065.

If a debt collector contacts you, give the collector the contact information for the personal representative (also called the“executor”) who is handling the estate. It is the personal representative’s responsibility to make sure all bills are paid. Whatever you do, do not give any personal information to debt collectors. Scam artists sometimes pose as debt collectors to prey on relatives.

If a debt collector won’t stop contacting you, send a certified letter to the collector saying you do not want to be contacted again. Once the collector receives the letter, the collector can contact you only to tell you that there will be no further contact or to inform you of a lawsuit. Report any problems with debt collectors to your state’s attorney general or to the Federal Trade Commission.

Related article: “Are Children Responsible for Their Parents’ Debts?”

The Elder Law Center is located in Aurora, IL, Kane County, in the Chicago Western Suburbs.

Why You Need to Plan for Long-Term Care

May 19, 2011

Thinking about a time when you will need help taking care of yourself is not fun. That is why most people put off discussing long-term care until it can’t be ignored. But it is better to start long-term care planning early. Here are some reasons to start planning now:

    • People are living longer and are more likely to need long-term care. Life expectancies keep increasing, which means you are more likely to need help at some point. At least 70 percent of people over age 65 will require some long-term care services at some point in their lives, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Care expenses are high. Whether you receive care in a nursing home or at home, expenses are rising. According to the 2010 MetLife Market Survey of Long-Term Care Costs, in 2010 the average cost of a room in a nursing home was $83,585 a year and home care aides averaged $21 per hour. Those figures aren’t going to start going down.
  • Family caregivers may not be available. In more and more households, both partners work. In addition, children often move far away from their parents. This means that your adult children may not be able to easily take of you when the time comes.
  • The earlier you plan, the better. By planning ahead, you may be able to preserve your assets instead of using them all up paying for long-term care. In addition, if you plan early, you may have more options for care.

To start planning for long-term care, talk to your elder law attorney. Planning steps may include executing advance directives and a power of attorney, putting assets in a trust, purchasing long-term care insurance, getting a reverse mortgage, creating a caregiver contract with an adult child, or transferring a house to children. Your attorney can help you figure out the best plan for you.

For more information on the importance of long-term care planning, click here.

To discuss long term care planning 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.