ASK TONY: Halifax wants my brother and I to both travel hundreds of miles to access our elderly mother's cash

ASK TONY: Halifax wants my brother and I to both travel hundreds of miles to access our elderly mother's cash

My mother, who is 97, has had to go into a care home. The fees are about £5,500 per month, which will be paid from her savings and the proceeds of the sale of her house, though there is little sign of the sale at the moment.

My brother and I have joint power of attorney. We have had no problems accessing my mother’s accounts at Barclays and Nationwide, but Halifax is insisting we present ourselves personally at the same branch to withdraw £20,000 from her account there.

We live at opposite sides of the country. He is in Cornwall and I’m in Essex.We have provided identification to confirm our identities at local branches. These funds are vital, but Halifax has refused to change its stance.

Halifax insisted that two siblings living far apart both travel to the same branch if they were to make a withdrawal from their mother's account

Halifax insisted that two siblings living far apart both travel to the same branch if they were to make a withdrawal from their mother's account

Halifax insisted that two siblings living far apart both travel to the same branch if they were to make a withdrawal from their mother’s account

I wrote to the Financial Ombudsman, which sent a confirmation email saying it would respond in four weeks. 

But four weeks has gone and there has been no progress — this matter is becoming urgent.

Mrs P. H., Essex.

I told Halifax it was behaving in a ridiculous manner. How can it expect people who live at opposite sides of the country to present themselves at the same branch?

This illustrates how banks are making life hard for people who are acting as power of attorney.

The Financial Ombudsman has also not covered itself in glory, as I found when I spoke to you.

The initial feedback you were given left you with the impression it was likely to side with Halifax based on legal arguments. There are times when common sense is more important than legal arguments. That’s what the Financial Ombudsman used to be about.

Once I made contact, Halifax swiftly came up with a compromise. Its initial difficulty was that you were ‘joint’ powers of attorney rather than ‘joint and several’, which would have let you act individually. But, as I said, there is no reason why one of you should not give written permission for the other to act in certain instances.

Halifax said you can each send a signed letter to an address it has provided detailing how much you want to be paid and where it should go. A longer-term solution would be to close the account and move the funds. This can be done with two signed letters, one from each of you, detailing the intention to close the account and how you want to receive the money.

The customer services team has contacted you to explain this. But someone should have taken the common sense approach earlier — especially when you contacted the Ombudsman. You opted to close the account.

A Halifax spokesperson says: ‘Due to the joint signing rights on the power of attorney, we require both parties to be present in the same branch for withdrawal.

‘The exceptional circumstances presented to us in this case have prompted us to look at possible alternatives, which we have agreed with Mrs H and her brother. We apologise to them for the stress and inconvenience this caused.’

You have YOUR say 

Every week Money Mail receives hundreds of your letters and emails about our stories. 

Here are some from our article about returning, exchanging and selling unwanted Christmas gifts.

Some shops don’t take returns on Boxing Day or December 27. It’s like they want to make returning things as hard as possible, so we give up. As for vouchers, I’d prefer a tenner to spend anywhere.

B.H., Edinburgh.

If a present is faulty, tell the person who bought it, to get a replacement. I don’t think people should get cash or store credit if they don’t like a gift. Why not donate it to a charity shop?

A. J., email.


Regifting is a fine art. A gift should move from person to person, until it finds its best home. Those of us who have birthdays in January and February do well out of the regifting system.

G. P., Surrey.

I would never return a gift behind the giver’s back. People put thought into what they buy. The very fact they have even thought about me means a lot.

W. N., email.

I have never tried to return a present. They are either regifted or donated to good causes, such as charity raffles. I received a fair few things I’m not keen on. They will be getting this treatment.

A. R., Newcastle.

I volunteer in a charity shop and lots of unwanted Christmas presents are donated to us each year. We appreciate it as we get more money for our cause and customers get new products.

C. B., Glasgow.

At this time of the year, I think shoppers should prioritise being polite to retail staff. Many have worked horrendous hours. They are exhausted, so be nice.

K. G., Cork, Ireland.

My mother gave us a Christmas-themed fireguard for our wood-burning stove. We are going to regift this to my mother-in-law, who is over-the-top when it comes to Christmas. We’ve told my mother we don’t like it.

E. T., Suffolk.

My wife and I flew from LA to Newcastle via Heathrow on June 12 with British Airways. We had ordered two wheelchairs through the airline’s website. I am 83 and had recently undergone heart surgery, so did not want to risk walking far.

At Heathrow, we were taken in the wheelchairs to a seating area to wait for our next flight.

But when it was time to go through security, only one wheelchair appeared. I asked where the second one was, and was told only one was reserved and nothing could be done.

I told my wife to take the chair as she suffered from leg pains, and I spent an hour walking to the gate. At Newcastle, two wheelchairs were waiting.

A couple of weeks later I was hospitalised with heart problems. I was told they were a result of the excess strain caused by the long walk at Heathrow.

If it was not for the skill of the doctors I am not sure I would have pulled through.

When I complained, BA told me it is Heathrow’s responsibility to deal with customers with reduced mobility. I am shocked at the way the airline shrugged off any blame for a mistake that could have cost me my life.

J.J., Newcastle.

It is understandable your first port of call was BA, given that you reserved the wheelchairs through its website.

In an email BA said it was ‘truly sorry’ you had to walk so far, but a change in EU legislation meant it was no longer responsible for customers with reduced mobility and directed you to Heathrow.

It is the airport’s responsibility to provide customer wheelchairs — but the EU legislation is not new. While the airline says it takes its responsibilities to customers with disabilities ‘extremely seriously’, it is a shame it did not offer to liaise with Heathrow for you.

Heathrow uses a company called Omniserv to take care of wheelchair requests.

When I contacted Heathrow it said high demand for its services on the day caused it to fall short of its service standards. It regrets any upset caused by suggesting further assistance could not be given and has apologised to you.

If you want to take your complaint further, you can write to CEDR, an independent dispute resolution body, at 70 Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 1EU.

Straight to the point 

My late husband had 252 shares in Aviva and I’ve been trying for months to replace his name with mine on the share certificate. 

I’ve complied with every request made by the company, Computershare. I’ve sent his death certificate, a copy of the will and £85.50. But all I have received is a share certificate with his name on it.

J.W., Carshalton, Surrey.

Computershare says it registered your husband’s death in early August and sent you a stock transfer form. 

However, it claims you made some errors on the form which led to the certificate being issued in your husband’s name. 

Then the certificate went missing, so you had to pay an extra £41.50 for a duplicate copy on top of a £44 admin fee. Computershare says it will complete the transfer and refund the £85.50 as a gesture of goodwill.

*** 

We read that under new rules victims of fraud may soon be able to pursue banks for their money back. 

We were cheated by fraudsters when we tried to rent a villa in Tenerife in November 2016. Will we be able to claim a refund?

A.B., Yorkshire.

You are referring to a new voluntary code of conduct expected to be published early this year. 

Its aim is to force banks to do more to stop fraud and be more consistent in how they treat victims. 

But banks signing up to the code will not have to apply the rules retrospectively, so it will likely be no use to you.

*** 

When my wife, daughter and I flew to Lisbon via Madrid from Birmingham in September we had to pay £69 to check in three cases as Iberia Airlines could not find our booking. 

We were told we could claim it back but the customer service team told us to do it online, and we cannot find anything on the site. Can you help?

P. S., by email.

Iberia Airlines says it could not find any record of your booking and that, according to its system, your fare did not include checked luggage. As a gesture of goodwill it has agreed to refund the £69 you paid for the three cases.

*** 

On November 22 I got two emails saying $30.29 (£24.57) and $35.51 (£28.81) had been taken from my PayPal account, but I did not make these payments. 

I have emailed PayPal many times, tried to call and sent a letter by recorded delivery.

M. W., email.

PayPal cannot find any record of you contacting its customer service centre but agrees you did not make the payments and will refund you. It is unclear how your account was compromised, but you have since opened a new one.

 


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