Questions of Cash: Power of Attorney task requires too many hours of calls and letters

 

Q. I have the Lasting Power of Attorney for an elderly lady who has dementia. I have slowly managed to locate 20 financial institutions that she has, or had, dealings with.

This has taken me many hours of phone calls and letters. On one occasion, a bank lost the identity documents.

Other banks have taken a month to return the documents, leaving me without them for many weeks.

None of the banks has been willing even to acknowledge that the lady has an account with them until they have seen the Power of Attorney and my identity documents.

Is there any central register that I could use to help me locate the accounts? If there is such a register, would it be possible to register the Power of Attorney with the body that holds it and to save me many frustrating hours?

I have spoken to numerous people who all have the same problem and, with the number of people with dementia increasing, the problem will grow. TH, by email.

A. It would be impossible to hold a central register of all accounts held with all financial institutions across the UK because of the sheer number of the accounts and institutions. Nor would such a register necessarily assist you as it would probably still not include many accounts held offshore. If you do a credit check with the three main credit reference agencies – Equifax, Experian and CallCredit – you may obtain some additional information pointing to accounts held by your friend. You could also try accessing the dormant account service, MyLostAccount (www.mylostaccount.org.uk).

The MyLostAccount website is operated jointly on behalf of National Savings & Investments, the Building Societies Association and the British Bankers' Association. A spokeswoman for the BSA says: "I would say MLA could absolutely help a person who has Power of Attorney and is managing an account for someone else. We would advise the person with PoA to check through any papers they have or can get hold of for a reference of a bank or building society and then use the service to trace any money which could have gone awry. As long as a person has PoA and the name of a banking organisation they should have success using the website."

However, without knowing with which financial institution an account was held, this service is less useful. "I suggest … the person [does] a general search on My Lost Account, filling in as much information as they can," continues the BSA spokeswoman. The My Lost Account service is easy to use and should not take more than 20 minutes to complete, but you need to have a complete list of past addresses to produce accurate results.

Q. In January this year I ordered a number of items from Mater dei Press, a small printing and personalised stationery business in Minster-in-Thanet, near Ramsgate in Kent. The total order was £7.90. I have previously ordered goods without any problem.

This order had not been fulfilled by early February, so I sent emails, wrote a letter and tried phoning many times, all without success; I then phoned the local library in the small town where the company is based; the librarian said she would contact the people running the business.

I have still not heard anything. I didn't stop the cheque as I assumed the goods would eventually be delivered. But in April the cheque was cashed, yet I have still not had the goods. PP, Hampshire.

A. The Yell directory provides a phone number and web address for Mater dei Press, while you gave us an email address. The email bounced. Phone calls went unanswered. The website did not work when we tried a few times. There is a legal obligation on a person or business to provide goods that have been paid for, but it seems unlikely that trading standards officials would pursue the issue in this instance given the small sum involved.

Q. I have been an American Express card member since the late 1980s, although the American Express records suggest that I have been a member only since 1999. About 20 years ago, I was intending to cancel my card because of the annual fee. I was then told in writing that I would not have to pay the annual fee and I would have a card free for life.

But in January 2013, I was asked to pay an annual fee of £36. I pointed out by email that I was not liable to pay such a fee. American Express asked me to produce the letter. I explained it was not in my possession any more, but they could see from their records that no payment was made each year on the renewal date.

They then said they sent me a letter last year in which they informed me of a change relating to my account. I have never received the letter. I was promised it would be re-sent, but nothing has arrived apart from the statement of account. When I tried to log into my account, I found they have cancelled my card and I could not access the account mailbox. BP, London.

A. American Express has no record of having offered you your Gold Card free for life and, as you say, you no longer have the letter confirming that offer. American Express is, though, now offering you an alternative card that does not have an annual fee. A spokeswoman explains: "Unfortunately, a written record does not exist that our card member was offered fee-free cards indefinitely.

We contacted her in February 2011 about the annual fee that was introduced to her card. As she did not pay this fee when it was due at the end of 2012, her account went into arrears and as per her terms and conditions, her card was cancelled." You have decided because of this experience not to accept the free card offer and have taken out a card with another issuer.

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But if you have a financial dilemma, we'll do our best to help. Please email us at: questionsofcash@independent.co.uk

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