Paycheck Chronicles

Powers of Attorney

I have had the most interesting week.  With my husband deployed, I can't easily ask him to call the financial institutions if I have a question about something in one of his accounts.  We do have several accounts that aren't joint, including retirement accounts and credit card accounts.  It is a conscious choice to keep separate credit card accounts, but sometimes it can be a pain.

Since I'm the Chief Financial Officer at our house, any questions or issues come through me first.  If it deals with my husband's accounts, I usually ask him to "call this number and ask/tell them this."  In confusing situations, he'll just ask them to please talk to me, and usually we can get things straightened out pretty easily.  Except when he's deployed, then I've got to whip out the Powers of Attorney every time I need to contact a financial institution about one of his accounts.

This week has been full of financial transactions:  gathering tax records, moving money, and changing stuff to best suit our family's situation while he is gone.  Right now I'm feeling a little frustrated because the two banks with which we do most of our business have such widely differing policies on handling Powers of Attorney.  In fact, neither of them is awful, but they are so very different and I hadn't planned ahead to accomodate their individual rules.

Navy Federal Credit Union wants me to fax the Power of Attorney before every time I call about an account in my husband's name.  I don't actually have a fax machine set up in my house so it is a half hour process to plug it in, put a couple of phone lines together, stretch them across the house to a phone jack, and get the papers faxed.  Inconvenient, but fine.

On Monday, I called USAA to ask some non-account specific questions about their credit cards.  They didn't really understand or want to help me in that way and said that I should fax in my POA so that they could talk to me about the specific account.  I wasn't at home and said that I would call back to get the phone number.  I just called, got the phone number, and asked if they would call me or if I should call them.  I was informed that it could take up to 14 business days to process the POA.  What?  That's nearly 3 weeks!  The representative did say that once I had the POA attached to the account, I wouldn't have to send it in again - it would remain on file.  Had I known that initially, I would have sent them the POA two months ago.  I just assumed (yes, I know about assuming) that they would be able to process it a little quicker than 3 weeks.

I think the lesson here it is to ask before you need to know.  While I've only dealt with these two situations (recently), I do know others who have run into similar problems.  Like Andi from SpouseBUZZ, whose lender required a specific power of attorney for her transaction.  As Andi says, the Fedex camel doesn't always come by on a schedule!  If you anticipate any need to use your Powers of Attorney, start asking questions early, and ask them often.  Maybe you can avoid some of the surprises that I've had this week.

3/16 Update:  I faxed my POA to USAA on Friday, March 13th.  I called after faxing the POA, concerned that perhaps two of the pages had stuck together and wondering how I would know if that had happened.  The representative on Friday informed me that I should have access to the account in 24-48 hours, and to call back on Monday.

I called today, Monday, March 16th.  The first representative told me that the POA had been received, it was under review, and I should call back on Thursday.  Since this made no sense to me (and she didn't really sound like she knew what she was talking about,)  I immediately called back to see if I would get a different answer from a different representative.  The second representative today (fourth total) told me that 14 days was correct, and that I could call back in a week to see if maybe they had gotten it processed more quickly.

So here we are, a week since I first started, and I'm still being told two more weeks.  I appreciate the comment, usaarep, but perhaps you could explain it to the rest of the company?

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