The Florida Senior Legal Helpline was contacted by Dorothy,* a 92-year old who lives in the special memory unit of an assisted living facility, where she is a private pay patient. Although she suffers from progressive dementia, Dorothy has done well in the facility, her home for the past 8 years. Fortunately, Dorothy had executed a Durable Power Of Attorney (DPOA) while she was competent, giving her niece, Roxanne, authority to handle her affairs. For years, Roxanne, a retired banker, had paid the facility with funds from her aunt’s bank account, on which she is a co-signer. However, she realized that the cash in the joint account would be gone by the end of 2015 and she would need to use her aunt’s last asset – a CD in an IRA in Dorothy’s name worth $28,000 – for future payments.
Early in 2015, Roxanne presented her aunt’s DPOA to the bank to access the CD. The bank refused to accept it and informed her that the only way she could reach the funds in her aunt’s IRA would be to become her guardian. Over the next several months, Roxanne spoke to many bank employees, all of whom maintained this position. Roxanne decided to call the Florida Senior Legal Helpline in October and spoke with an attorney. The attorney advised her that as a result of amendments to Florida’s DPOA statute in 2010, if a bank rejects a pre-2010 Power of Attorney, it must provide a written explanation within 5 business days. Roxanne had been trying to access the IRA for 6 months, had submitted her DPOA twice, but had never received a written denial.
Following another failed attempt to get the bank to cooperate, the attorney contacted several bank executives in an effort to reach the bank’s legal department, without success. Finally, the attorney advised the regional manager that if the bank did not intend to honor the DPOA, a written explanation was required by Florida Statute. When the written denial finally came it included contact information for the bank’s attorney. Via conference call with the bank’s counsel, the Helpline attorney detailed the validity of Dorothy’s DPOA under Florida statute, and further explained that without access to her money, Dorothy would have to leave her assisted living facility. The bank’s Counsel agreed on the phone that the DPOA was sufficient and notified the bank branch. Within days, Roxanne called to report that she had gone to the bank to find that the IRA was transfered to Dorothy’s checking account, and she would be able to remain in the assisted living facility, her home.