When banks prioritize their interests over customer service, we all lose.

wells_fargo_realityI 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.

When 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.   

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

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.

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.

The Basic Life Preparedness Tool: Durable Power of Attorney

POAAs we move into the holiday season and prepare to enjoy time with family and friends, consider finding out if loved ones have a durable power of attorney. Everyone should anticipate that they may be unable to handle their affairs at some point during their adult lives. A power of attorney gives the individual you appoint the ability to act on your behalf until you recover.

As soon as you reach 18, it’s recommended that a power of attorney is in place with a trusted family member.  Parents have found that they are unable to learn about an adult child’s healthcare issues if they don’t have a medical power of attorney in place — even through they are paying for their healthcare expenses.

The statistics regarding the likelihood that you may need someone to step in and help are alarming—some 43 percent of all people age 40 now will have a long-term disability event (lasting 90 or more days) prior to reaching age 65. And seven out of ten people who turn 65 today will need some type of long-term care services and support lasting three or more years.

A durable power of attorney typically costs just a few-hundred dollars. We recommend you consult with a lawyer dedicated to the practice of estate law licensed in your state to determine your needs.

Related News Stories

The Power of Attorney Can Help With a Loved Ones Care
Your Daily Journal 11/28/2014
A good overview explaining the benefits of a power of attorney.

Veterans Fighting Back Over Power of Attorney
WTNH 11/13/2014
A story that illustrates the risk of not already having a power of attorney in place.

Guardianship vs. Power of Attorney Not Usually Choices
Poughkeepsie Journal, 11/9/2014
The expense and cost to your dignity when a loved one has to petition the court for guardianship make a power of attorney the preferred choice.

If you want to learn about my life experience (both good and bad) in using a Durable Power of Attorney to help my aging parents, check out Dealing with Dementia.

Making Good Decisions When Managing Someone Else’s Money

Many of us who are caregivers, are also managing finances and bill payments. I was the child who lived the closest to Mommanagingsomeoneelsesmoney and Dad when their health started to fail, and although my siblings wanted to help, they were separated by too many miles to realistically play an active role in paying our parents’ bills, acting as their medical advocates or managing their household. Those responsibilities naturally fell to me, and the amount of information I needed to manage quickly became overwhelming when it was added to all that I was already doing for my family.

Desperation is the mother of invention, and I decided to create an organizational binder that would help me collect and catalog my parents’ information. I created a one-stop-shop reference resource that helped me save time finding information. Perhaps most important, it allowed me to easily hand over all of our parents’ information—in the form of one, easily transportable book—when a sibling came to town to provide some much-needed caregiving relief. The system launched MemoryBanc.

In addition to managing a lot of new information, I ran into several unexpected roadblocks along the way: During my parents estate planning process, I was given and held their Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA). However,  despite the validity of the DPOA,  it took many phone calls and in some cases several months for the DPOA to be acknowledged and processed.  When some financial services firms refused to accept it, my father and I set up online access to the accounts so I could help them by directly acting on my parents behalf online.

In talking with friends about my experiences, I also realized that planning for future, life-changing events is something all of us seem to recognize as being important, but it’s one of the first things we put on the back burner. There are a million excuses, and I’ve lived many of them. But we need to change our attitude that doing it “later” is okay:  According to the 2011 Disability Insurance Statistics Bank: JHA Disability Fact Book, “43 percent of all people age 40 will have a long-term disability event prior to age 65.”

For these reasons, I strongly urge every adult to work with a lawyer to create a Durable Power of Attorney. It should only cost a few hundred dollars.

If you are named as the fiduciary in a DPOA, you should download the free publication called “Managing Someone Else’s Money“. It includes great recommendations as well as good information on steps to take if your run into a roadblock using a valid DPOA. Recommended.  


SSA vs My Durable Power of Attorney

ssaTwo month’s ago, I shared how easy my appointment and the process was to become the “representative payee” with the Social Security Administration (SSA) for my parent’s using my durable power of attorney.

I was told I would get all the details mailed to me within 4 weeks. At 6 weeks, I started to call and cursed my belief that SSA would live up to the promise of services. The window for phone inquiries is relatively small (M, T, TH & F from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., W 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.). On my first call during the “open” hours, the call volume was so heavy, I took the option to request a return call. A half of an hour later a woman calls from their central phone bank who is unable to help me. I am told I need to back during office hours to reach the local office. I explained that I called the number I was given during office hours. I’m told that I need to try again and know that when call volume is heavy, all calls are redirected to the central number , who in my case are unable to help me.

I tried calling more than eight times over a two-week period and was always bumped to the central phone bank. After ten weeks, my first confirmation that the process worked was my mom giving me a letter that she got from Social Security. She hands it over and asks me what it means. I tell her and she responds “Okay, Babe!” It took a lot longer than I had expected, but at least it’s finally done. Now … if only I would get the notice and details on how to login so I can update the address to make sure this year I get the tax forms. Completed. 


Related Posts:

Where Government Services Crush US Financial Services

The Promise of Services at Social Security (SSA)

My Durable Power of Attorney vs. Armed Forces Insurance (AFI)

afiOn a recent visit, I find my mother has written a check* for $495 to Armed Forces Insurance (AFI). I had no knowledge of this insurance plan and my mom had no recollection of what it was for, she just paid it. Sometimes my Mom will set it aside and hand over bills and other times, she will pay them. It’s really only been a major issue when it comes to magazine subscriptions which is why we have a subscription to Birds & Blooms until 2025. This is the first real bill she has paid in a while.

I find a copy of the invoice and contact the customer service department. They were very helpful and just asked that I send in a copy of my durable power of attorney. The customer service representative offered the option of emailing or faxing. YEAH!

I emailed the durable POA with my address and request for documentation on what the insurance is for. It was a list of personal items and jewelry. As I review the list, I know my Mom no longer has some of the items. She has handed over some of the jewelry to children already. I set it aside to address later.

Three weeks later, I get a call from AFI.  They want to know if they can help answer questions and if I’m aware that the policy needs to be renewed. The woman on the phone kindly walks me through the steps needed to get online access so I can renew and make the needed adjustments to the policy.

Armed Forces Insurance, not only made this easy, they followed up and helped me get this settled. Of course, they wanted payment, but they made the process of reviewing and accepting my Durable Power of Attorney what we all thought it would be!  Psyched. 

* My Mother was not ready to give up her checkbook so I opened a second account with limited funds that I monitor. It is not ideal, but it helped smooth the transition of the bill pay activities and protect their real checking account from a major loss of funds.

USAA vs My Durable Power of Attorney

usaaTwo months ago, my mom sent in a payment to USAA for a policy we believed was cancelled in January.  As we were going through the move with my parents from Independent into Assisted Living, we tried to make changes to their policy. When USAA refused to make the changes we requested, we decided to cancel the policy and purchased new insurance. That was the quickest and easiest way for us to resolve having the insurance company accept our calls to make adjustments to our parents insurance policies.

My initial call on 5/7/2013 to update the address and straighten out my parents insurance policy started off badly. The woman on the phone asked me for a lot of information about me and my husband — birth dates, employer, social security numbers — and I was a little put-off.  I stopped her and asked her why she needed this and she admitted she was interested in updating the records she had on me since we were eligible for USAA.

I am sure my voice was not pleasant when I asked her to just help me resolve the issue that I called about. She continued to try to engage me and got an earful. At first she tried to suggest I complete the USAA version of the power of attorney. I explain that my parents no longer have the ability to sign over this power — and the durable power of attorney was done for this reason and should suffice. She finally provides me with the fax number and directions to get my request resolved.  She tells me it will take about 2 weeks to have the durable power of attorney reviewed and I would hear back from USAA confirming their receipt of my request.

When three weeks passed and I had not received an acknowledgement, I called back.  I’m told they don’t show receiving either of the two 11-page faxes I sent to the number provided. The gentleman promises that when they receive the documents, they will put it on the fast track and I should hear back within a few days.

I just resent both copies of my Durable Power of Attorney in today — I will let you know when I hear back and the outcome. Aggravated.



The Digital Keys to Your Estate

digital keyIn the past week, The New York Times has run two stories on two different angles of our modern-day lives. 

The first story posted on May 24th Leaving Behind the Digital Keys to Financial Lives discusses the real life issue created that is not being addressed in current financial or estate planning. Our financial lives are online – we have paperless statements, automated bill payments as well as credit cards on file with several of our treasured online services. If you have not documented these, your loved ones would have no clue on how to access this information. This goes beyond the roster of accounts and includes the online access codes and details with those accounts. This is the prime problem I created the MemoryBanc Register to solve — it helps individuals catalog and share this information if it is ever needed. 

What most American’s fail to recognize is that until our 80s, we are more likely to suffer a disability than die. You may very well be on this planet and need to have someone in your life access and manage your affairs for you – if even only temporarily.

Don’t forget about the $58 billion sitting in state and federal treasuries. This is not a new problem.

The second story is from May 25th Bequeathing the Keys to Your Digital Afterlife which deals with the issue of all those online assets, like photographs or even your blog. Google is the first to set up a provision for this and hopefully, the other online firms will follow. Hoped.

How about you?  Take this quick poll now.

Where Government Services Crush U.S. Financial Services Firms

ssaMy visit to the local Social Security office was incredibly prompt, professional and courteous. In order to best serve my parents needs, who are both in Assisted Living at a retirement community, and suffer from varied but moderate stages of dementia, I reached out to the Social Security Administration (SSA). My initial request was to change the address on their MEDICARE statement. It turns out that is based on the information stored with SSA, so I was referred to that agency.  The woman from SSA on the phone suggest I set an appointment. She finds and makes me one 9:04 a.m. and that is within one week of my initial phone call.

I’m told to show up with the power of attorney and the name, number and address of a doctor than can confirm why a personal representative is needed for my parents.

When I arrive at the local office today, which opened at 9:00 a.m., there is a line of people out the door. I check to see if they have appointments, and am told they are in line to get an appointment. They point me inside and I walk up to an empty window to check-in for my 9:04 a.m. appointment. I am told to take a seat and I will be called. Within a minute, I’m called. When I reach the window, the woman is friendly and I explain why I requested the appointment.

She explains that I will be asked several questions and under penalty of perjury if I provide false responses. I’m okay with that … most people know I have a truth problem … not a lying problem! She asks me several questions to confirm that there is no conservator or guardianship process in place, requests that I explain why I’m qualified to be the “personal representative” for my parents, and takes me through a battery of questions that are pre-printed on the request form I must sign to initiate this process.

Most of my initial discussions with U.S. Financial Services firms have involved them refusing to accept my parent’s power of attorney and insisting that I download their version and get it executed. When I push back, I have gotten a variety of responses that will be covered in future blogs … and that will illustrate how simple the SSA made it to deal with this growing issue for American citizens.

The woman from SSA gives me her contact information, explains how the process works and shared that I should receive a note within 2 – 3 weeks confirming how to change the address and modify the account. I walk out of my local SSA office in under 30 minutes! They have just set the benchmark on which I will be judging the other institutions who are on my list. Impressed.