Wells Fargo is More Focused on THEIR Process than Serving ME

I have yet to be convinced that the default process being used by banks put into place to protect our accounts is reasonable. Today reminded me of how frustrating it is to deal with Wells Fargo in particular.

My client wanted me to step in as POA to help on her accounts, so we went to the bank and set it up so I could easily act on her behalf. She was with me and we used the Wells Fargo form to set it up and the whole process took an hour–it should have taken 10 minutes. The first banker had no idea how to even do it, so we waited for the “senior banker”.  The “senior banker” had to call the “back office” to be walked through the process.

My client has estate plans and a trust in place, but her son is not in the area. I was stepping in to help while she was transitioning from her home into a life care community.  We are on the other side of the transition and now that Wells Fargo has the Trust and all the beneficiaries is in alignment with her plans, I wanted to step down as POA.

I visited the bank to resign thinking it would be relatively easy. The first appointment took over an hour as I first had to wait for the “senior banker”, and then we sat on the phone as he called the “back office” to get tutored on what to do. I was told I had to bring in a letter formally resigning. They didn’t have a form, or any further instructions.

wells_fargo_realityWhen I returned with my “resignation letter” I was working with a different banker.  While thankfully, I was attended to right away, we then had to wait on hold in the queue for the “back office” for 25 minutes. This time the “back office” tells us there are specific things that had to be included in the resignation. My typed up letter put her name in the header, not in the sentence, so that letter didn’t work. After 45 minutes, I am really annoyed since the “letter requirements” were not provided to me on my first visit.

This banker understands my frustration and grabs a piece of paper and asks me to hand write the resignation.

Ummmm, you mean I could have done that on the first visit?

Yes, I could have. He is now talking with a contact at “document review” to finish the process to complete what Wells Fargo needs to complete the resignation.

Prompts to the banker who helped me on this last visit. He is the kind of banker you want, but the Wells Fargo systems are a hindrance to building a positive relationship with CUSTOMERS.

I am frustrated. Wells Fargo is doing this for THEM, not for my CLIENT, or for ME. We are both customers. For the millions of caregivers who are going to have to go through this laborious process, be forewarned and do it before you need it. It only gets harder.

I miss the smaller bank I used to work with. I came first. I’ve also seen this with my clients and colleagues. The big name banks prioritize their interests and procedure before customer service.  Totally Annoyed. 

** I left my smaller bank because their online banking was very difficult to use and unreliable. Open to recommendations for banks in the NoVA!

Why a Trust Was Beneficial to This Caregiver

My parents and kids celebrating a new year.

Most of us associate “estate planning” with death. I know I viewed it that way when my husband and I did our will the first time. It was right after we had our son and were taking a trip overseas without him. We wanted to make sure we had the plans in place in case we died on our trip. Very unlikely, but it is a big fear for many new parents and it’s usually the first time couples create estate plans. At that time, our plan consisted of a will and a durable power of attorney.

Good Estate Planning is for the Living 

After caring for two parents, my opinion of estate planning has radically changed. In general, lawyers do a terrible job of educating us on the legal documents every adult over 18 should have in place. The failure to communicate the benefits of creating powers of attorney (financial and healthcare) just adds overwhelm to caregivers already working to help their loved ones. Rightly or wrongly, most of us view estate planning as planning for what happens after we die.

If you are on the path to becoming a caregiver, you will need these two documents to be an effective advocate for your loved one:

  1. Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA). Simply stated, a DPOA allows someone to act on your behalf for legal and financial reasons.There are several situations where even a spouse needs to have this document to act on behalf of their betrothed.
  2. Healthcare Directives (otherwise called a medical power of attorney) gives an individual the ability to be your medical advocate and typically includes your wishes if you are severely ill or injured.

These two documents should not cost you more than a few hundred dollars. I recommend you work with a lawyer, because WHEN you run into resistance for the durable power of attorney, you will want the lawyers help.

The Department of Health & Human Services tells us that 70% of American’s turning 65 will need three or more years of long-term care services. That means most of us will need someone who can act as our advocate for our finances, and possibly even need to sell a home or use our assets to pay for our care.

My parents had property and a variety of retirement and investment accounts and set up a trust when they redid their estate plans in 2002. It made several aspects of managing their affairs much easier for me while they were alive and even more so after they passed away.

During my time as their primary adult caregiver, many of their financial institutions refused to acknowledge their durable power of attorney. We have a statute in Virginia that would have allowed me to file a lawsuit, but on top of caregiving, that was the last thing I wanted to add to my checklist of to-dos.

It doesn’t make sense that the trust was more accepted document, but it was and several elder care attorneys have confirmed this response from financial services firms. Luckily, I didn’t have to solely rely on the durable power of attorney that was declined by firms such as Wells Fargo, USAA, and Fidelity.

The trust gives you the ability to define how you want to live your life and for that reason, it was incredibly helpful to me when I needed to be able to help my parents. It also and include a host of instructions on how to use the money.

I’m not a lawyer, just an adult family caregiver who found this legal tool incredibly useful. Let me know if you would like the name of a trusted lawyer to help you draw up your documents. Believed.







23% of Adults Between 45-64 are Caregivers?

CaregiverTableAccording to Pew Research Center, adults ages 45 to 64 are the most likely to be caregivers. In fact, about a quarter (23%) of adults ages 45 to 64 cares for an aging adult.

Then, for those over 65 – 17% – serve as caregivers for another aging American. Many in this group are caring for a spouse or partner (29%) or a friend or neighbor (33%).

When I see that 40.4 million American’s are caregivers for adults 65 and older, I wonder how we are going to manage as a society. What concerns me most is that most American’s do not have basic estate plans.

To be clear, I really don’t care about wills, I want you to understand that every adult over 18 should have a Durable Power of Attorney which is the legal document that names someone to act on your behalf financially; and a medical power of attorney that allows someone to be your medical advocate. These two documents will impact your life when you are LIVING.

We all need these, even in our 20s. By 65, seven out of ten American’s will require three or more years of long-term care. Someone in your life will need these legal powers to help you. Please contact a local estate attorney and get these done, they cost as little as a few hundred dollars. Please know that being married doesn’t mean you automatically have someone that can fill these roles for you. They may not be named on your account, they may not know where to find your account information, they may not know your wishes.

As the person who was the caregiver for my parents financial, medical, and personal needs and wishes, having the information to help them was so important I launched a business to help every American get their own information organized.

After caring for both parents through death, I recognize how much having this information organized made this difficult emotional task easier. I wasn’t worried about account details or where to find documents. I could focus on fulfilling my parent’s wishes for end-of-life. Nothing makes that easy, but at least it was all I really needed to address when that time came. Recommended. 

Wells Fargo Continues to Refuse to Accept my Durable Power of Attorney

wellsfargopt2Last Friday I posted Will Wells Fargo Accept Your Power of Attorney? Most people are shocked to hear that many banks will freely, but politely, decline to accept a durable power of attorney (DPOA). This is not the first financial services firm to say no. Three years ago Fidelity told me they would not accept a DPOA more than 2 years old; and a second one declined because it was more than 5 years old. The fact that they are doing this is frustrating and not supposed to happen. It’s complicated. I will continue to recommend you work with an estate lawyer who can help navigate this issue.

My parents did their initial DPOA in 2002. When I started to get the refusals, we worked to update their DPOA. Now that my mom is into a later stage of dementia, I need it to work so I can help continue to get mom the care she needs.

After my post @Ask_WellsFargo responded on April 30 and asked me to private message them my name and phone number. I did that. It’s been a week and no one has reached out to me.

Two days ago, the estate lawyer followed up with a letter asking that they honor my mother’s DPOA and allow me to access her funds so that they can be used for her care.

Dear Wells Fargo, The caregivers journey is already hard. Please don’t make it harder by refusing to accept the tools my mom put in place so that I could help her should she ever need it. Pleaded. 

After getting no response from the letter to legal department of Wells Fargo, I went into my local branch every week to discuss the issue with the manager. Eventually, they worked with me to contact my siblings who were all named in the Trust to confirm that the money was to be used for my mom’s care. While in Virginia, I could have initiated a law suit, having that on my plate was one more task I wasn’t willing to consider. Thankfully, the employees at the local branch worked with me to help serve mom’s interests.




Will Wells Fargo Accept Your DPOA?

wellsfargoAs I began to use the Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) several years ago, I found out that many banks don’t like them. They would prefer you use the one they supply that doesn’t give you control over when it goes into effect or a way to dictate specific wishes. If and when you need to use one, you will find that getting them to accept it, can take hours in the bank and then possibly weeks to months to resolve issues.

Last month, I went in to clear up two checking accounts and remove my Dad’s name from the accounts. It took over two hours to have it processed and the two accounts cleaned up. I was already listed on my parents major account, so I think they weren’t so worried about giving my access and POA rights over the second smaller checking account.

However, I have hit a major roadblock on an account that was named to my parent’s trust. The DPOA  specifically names the trust and gives me the rights to access it, but the Wells Fargo legal team said “No, we won’t accept it” stating that the sentence giving me the rights doesn’t specifically begin with my mom’s name. The sentence giving me access to her checking account is written exactly the same way. Inconsistent, inconvenient and ridiculous.

If you have done estate planning or are considering it, and your estate lawyer tells you that this won’t happen to you. Please find another estate lawyer. This happens to even the best estate lawyers, most up-to-date DPOA documents, and well-drawn trusts. I live in a state with a statute that was written to ensure financial institutions accepted DPOAs and comes with financial penalties for refusing it. However, doing that is a lengthly law suit and another time vampire I’m not interested in pursuing. Please just accept the papers my parents drew up so that I could use their accounts to help pay for their health and welfare, OK?

When a bank says “no” you need to be able to return to your estate lawyer and they can write a letter to try and clear up the issue. I’m not sure if that will resolve this issue or if I will have to wait until my mom passes away to get access to her account.

The best end-around is to go online. The first time I got a “no” my dad was alive and we went online and created online access to those accounts that were problematic so I could more easily act on my parent’s behalf. That was what they intended. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn about this account until a few months ago when a tax paper got forwarded to me from an old address.

Because of all the places I have found problems, I recommend you get a copy of MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life. This isn’t just an issue for adult children caring for parents, but for every couple that divides and conquers and every individual that wants to make sure a loved one can help you, should you ever need it. Advised.

To find out what happens to the money that is lost in the shuffle of a move, crisis, or death you can read about the $58 billion sitting with state and federal treasurers. This includes tips on how to learn if you might be entitled to some of it.

Can the Law Keep Up With Our Modern LifeStyle?

After having to step in and use a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) to assist my parents, I quickly found so many gaps in its functionality, I devised many work arounds with my Dad so I could help them.

Not only were we surprised to find that a number of financial institutions declined to accept the DPOA, but there are many facets of our digital lives that it doesn’t cover.

moderntechoptionsFor those of us who use online services, email accounts and enjoy the online bill-pay services provided by our banks, what we don’t know can hurt us. If you haven’t stopped to read the “terms and conditions” you accepted, they typically state you can’t share the account and the provider basically dictates the rules. If you are incapacitated, the only way a loved one can get access is if you share your username and passcode.

The Uniform Law Commission helps standardize state laws and recently endorsed a plan that would give loved ones access to — but not control of — the deceased’s digital accounts, unless specified otherwise in a will. Given that at the age of 65, 7 out of 10 American’s will need 3 or more years of long-term care, we must recognize that most people will need someone to have access to these accounts while we are alive.

If you don’t have a list that documents this information for your own benefit and that can provide loved ones with needed information, click here to download a free chapter called “Taming the Internet” from the Amazon best-seller MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life that includes worksheets and details on how you can provide loved ones with the information they may need to help you.


Using a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA)

My parents did what the estate lawyer recommended. As well as the financial planner and insurance professional. However, when the time came for me to step in and help them using their Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA), things were a little more difficult that we all expected.

One of the major firms told me they would not accept a DPOA that was over two years old; a second told me they didn’t accept ones more than five years old. It happens though it shouldn’t, and sometimes you may need the lawyer who drafted the agreement to pursue it for you.

Legal tools alone won’t handle every situation. However, every adult should consider meeting with an estate lawyer to discuss your needs.  Because of my experience, I recommend that even those with estate plans take the extra step of documenting their information. For the estimated bulk of Americans without any estate plans (power of attorney, medical directives, will) , for your own best-interest, you should get your documents, accounts, and assets organized.

In my case, my dad sat down with me and we created online access to many of their accounts from their retirement to utilities, so that I could easily help pay bills, manage cash flow, their household and finances.

Are you prepared? If not, my free gift to you is a list of the items you need to document, download it here.

To get a copy of the award-winning system to help you collect and organize your documents, accounts, and assets, you can order a copy from Amazon, BAM!, or Barnes & Noble.  For $17.95, MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life will not only help you easily find your important information, but will give a road map to a loved one who you may need to step in and help, if even only temporarily.

Isn’t a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) All I Need?

While I believe the DPOA is important for any adult over 18 years of age to have in place, there is no one-stop solution. Because most people will need someone to step in and help them during their adult life, if even only for a few weeks, in addition to having the DPOA, they will need to know how to step in and help, and that is why a solution like MemoryBanc is a necessity.

The DPOA was the most important document I held that allowed me to help my parents when their health started to fail. Some institutions readily accepted it when I provided a copy, and I was quickly added to their accounts.

However, in several cases it was very difficult to use. Even though my state (Virginia) has a statute requiring institutions to accept the document. In my case, one financial institution would not accept it because it was more than two years old and a second refused because it was more than five years old. Some institutions took several months and repeated phone calls before I was granted the ability to act on my parent’s behalf.

If you don’t have a durable power of attorney, you can request and complete the “power of attorney” form from the specific financial institution. These forms are designed to allow account holders to define individuals and access rights. You will have to complete one from each institution for access, and these immediately take effect. But if someone is incapacitated, it will be too late to go this route. These documents require a notary to validate identification, and the signer will need to be alert and have decision-making capacity.

An invaluable safeguard is to use a system like MemoryBanc to record the locations of your documents, details on your accounts, and assets. This system  provides loved ones with a roadmap to assist you should help ever be needed.

Celebrities Illustrate the Good, Bad and Ugly in Life Planning

The Forbes story The 10 Biggest Celebrity Estate Stories Of 2014 And What You Can Learn illustrate good planning, bad planning and the ugly side of family feuds after a loved one dies.

From complicated family issues for Robin Williams, to misinformation about “trust fund kids” by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, it’s easy to stop and gawk. However, it’s reported that more than half of all American’s die without a will.

I’m lucky that my parents shared their wishes with me and my siblings and completed their estate plans well before we needed to use the tools created.

When you turn 65 years old, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, you have a 70 percent chance of needing 3 or more years of long-term care. You will be on this earth and need someone to advocate for you, pay your bills, manage your household and ensure that you live the life the way you wish.

If you do nothing else, contact a local estate lawyer about a Durable Power of Attorney. It should cost a few hundred dollars and will prove to be priceless in the very likely event that you need it.

Don’t repeat the mistakes of the rich and famous. Deliver the ultimate gift to your loved ones by planning now.

Sharing MY DPOA & Estate Plan Wishes

This past weekend, I sat down with my brother and my kids and walked them through the estate plan my husband and I recently had updated. It wasn’t doomy or gloomy since we are in good health. It just resulted in peace of mind for my kids to know our plans and we made sure that everyone knows where they can find our completed MemoryBanc Register, and the original copies of all of our important documents.

I wanted to share this as a follow-up to last weeks post discussing the importance of having a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA).

If you don’t already know this, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 7 out of 10 of us will need long-term care assistance for at least 3 years. The difficulty a loved one faces when you don’t have a DPOA can be expensive, undignified and lengthy.

I hope you will consider speaking with a lawyer dedicated to the practice of estate law in your area. You should be able to get one for just a few hundred dollars.