Bank reluctantly agrees to add new signatory

Joint accounts,
Jenny, an elderly woman with dementia, had completed an enduring power of attorney form authorising her husband to act for her about property matters. Allan, also elderly and with impaired vision, sought to add the couple’s daughter, Laura, as a signatory to their joint account.
February 2019

The account mandate required the signatures of both Jenny and Allan. Allan was able to sign on his own behalf and believed he could use his status as his wife’s attorney to sign on her behalf.

The bank declined to act on Allan’s instructions. It believed Allan was attempting to delegate his authority under the enduring power of attorney to Laura and suggested this was a breach of a common law principle that said a delegate could not further delegate his or her authority. It also told Allan it had a long-standing policy of restricting the changes an attorney could make to a grantor’s account.

Our investigation   

We disagreed with the bank’s position and sought a legal opinion, which concluded Allan was not delegating the authority granted to him, but simply exercising his right to sign an updated mandate on his wife’s behalf. We also noted that the bank had a general obligation to act on the instructions of a customer or his or her authorised representative. We were not convinced the bank’s policy complied with this obligation.


After extensive discussion, the bank agreed to allow Allan to use his authority under the enduring power of attorney to add Laura as a signatory. It did require an indemnity to be signed to protect itself. In certain circumstances the bank will be entitled to decline to act on an attorney’s instructions, for example if there is a risk of fraud or safety concerns. However, we were still concerned about the restrictiveness of the bank’s policy and it has agreed to review its policy.

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