I used to be sneery about couples who had joint bank accounts. It just seemed so... retro. A bit Stepford Wives. Upon getting married, did two people lose the ability to be individuals and instead became a single lump? I curled my lip when a (younger) colleague said that he and his soon-to-be wife had had one for ages. Really? How uncool.
Pride (and sneeriness) comes before a fall. In my case, a financial one. After Nick's accident, I discovered that despite being his wife and next of kin, despite being married for five years and together for 10, it meant diddly squat when it came to money matters. Since we didn't have a joint account, I might as well have not existed. His bank and credit card companies could not, would not, talk to me. Why? Data protection, two words that I have come to loathe. Data protection is, as the name suggests, there to protect people. In my experience, it's also a variant on the Little Britain line "computer says no". It's an unscalable wall, a fortress, vital in some cases and a massive pain in the bum in others.
The only ways to climb the barrier, to storm the castle gates if, like stupid, smug, individual me, you don't have a joint account, is to have one of two things. One is power of attorney, a phrase I'd heard of before Nick's accident, and the resulting minimal consciousness. This is yours to give to your partner, loved ones etc and needs the input of a solicitor. Given that my husband wouldn't write a will because it was "depressing", even had I known about the PoA, I can't imagine him being up for getting it. I bloody wish he had, though.
The other way, you see, is getting something called a deputyship. Sheriff jokes aside, this is what you need when your partner, loved one, etc doesn't have the capacity to give you their permission to take control of their finances. If you ever need to get deputyship, my heart goes out to you. Four months after Nick's accident, endless forms and solicitor's meetings and a formal complaint to the court of protection, which must judge whether I'm fit for purpose, later, I still don't have deputyship (and when I do get it, I'll have to pay a couple of grand in court and legal fees for the pleasure).
This week, my lack of power came to a head when Nick's bank decided to freeze his account and cancel all of his direct debits. And, because I don't have Excalibur - deputyship - it won't tell me why. Cheers Halifax! Now, I don't want access to Nick's accounts so I can ditch north London for Vegas, but because I need to transfer all of our bills into my name so that when his money runs out (I don't know when because: data protection!), he will still have a house to come home to. And, as in so many relationships, we divided duties. I paid for the mortgage and council tax, which went out of his account, and everything else he sorted. Yes, I know, pretty retro.
Also pretty retro is wanting to pay my way, to not default and to see that his daughter gets her maintenance payments. But until the bank and the court of protection lower their drawbridges, I'm on the outside, looking in. So please, couples, get one of two things. A joint account or power of attorney. Other than Nick being unbroken and well, there's nothing I would like more right now.