Friday, 13 October 2017

Accounts galore

I now officially have power of attorney over my mum's finances, which means I can start to sort out the rather chaotic state of her bank accounts. It became clear some time ago that she was leaving bills unpaid and losing track of her financial transactions.

I assumed she only had two or three bank accounts, but it turns out she has around forty - and maybe more that I'm not aware of. She had no proper filing system for her various accounts, and left bank statements all around her flat in a haphazard fashion.

My brother in law and I have been trying to collate all the statements, find out how much is currently in each account, and consolidate them into a handful of accounts we can keep up with easily.

For me to get access to the accounts, each bank requires proof of my power of attorney and proof of my identity, so I'm busy sending or taking copies of all the relevant documents to each bank - a very time-consuming task.

Today one bank verified my power of attorney - just another eleven banks left! I can only keep going by telling myself that once this plethora of accounts has been whittled down to a manageable few, my life will be a lot simpler.

Frankly, I think it's very thoughtless of my mum not to have simplified her finances some time ago to avoid just this situation - the rest of the family trying to make sense of her elaborate financial dealings. Thank goodness she didn't still have a pile of stocks and shares - she decided they were too high-risk and got rid of them all.

So here's my advice - "the more the merrier" isn't the best approach to banking.


  1. Joanne: I'm sure I can. It'll just take an absurdly long time.

  2. I can sorta relate. My former husband insisted he could manage household financials and when he gave up in despair a year later he left a trail of about 20 bank accounts. When questioned he said he was waiting for them to "sort themselves out" as he couldn't do it. I kid you not.

    So perhaps your mother......?

    Good luck.


  3. www: Yes, maybe she was waiting for them to sort themselves out. But more likely she was just an "impulse buyer" who couldn't resist opening yet another bank account because of some attractive deal.

  4. Omg, that is what I fear with my own parents. And every time I bring it up to my mom (dad has dementia), she makes an excuse of needing to get organized before she can go over everything with me. I'm going to be in trouble if something happens to her.

  5. Bijoux: Perhaps you just need to nudge her a little more and emphasise how hard it will be for others having to sort out her financial affairs?

  6. I was a bank clerk in the National Westminster Bank in 1980

    I was shite and ever balanced my till once

  7. Moher has reduced her accounts to one and has liquified her share accounts..she is, thankfully, leaving me with no problems.

  8. my goodness, I don't know how she was bothered. I have one account and it's quite enough

  9. We have simplified our accounts, not just for Kaitlin's sake, but for our own.

  10. John: When I worked in bookshops, the first thing I learnt was that a till that balances exactly is suspicious because it suggests someone's on the fiddle.

    Helen: Very sensible of her - and a great relief to you.

  11. Kylie: Well, she retired over 30 years ago, so she's had plenty of time on her hands to mess around with umpteen bank accounts. Like you, I couldn't be bothered. Jenny and I have two current accounts and one credit card account and that's it.

    Jean: Another person with a bit of common sense!

  12. Spare a thought for your mother. She must have been very bored (and, possibly, quite astute) to open several bank accounts. I'd love to know why she did. But FOURTY? Maybe, of course, a lot of them have been dormant and empty for years, few of them live.

    As to sorting stuff for a parent I am currently in the process of making everything as simple as possible for my son - including, call me anal, typing up a template letter to inform anyone of my demise plus a list of all the official documents he'll need and where to find them. Last thing he needs is crying over my admin shite when he is already crying over me.

    Come to think of it, Nick, I have the opposite of your "problem". My father has "tidied" his life as he went along, always. Drives me nuts. The other day I mentioned to my mother that it would be nice if, when they die, there were actually anything, anything at all of their personal trail through life, left. By which I mean personal stuff (letters, diaries, writings, photos). Money doesn't come into it because my parents haven't got any assets to leave. But I know already how it'll go. Should my mother die first (more likely) my father will use his favourite filing spot (Ablage 13 - the bin). If my mother dies last (unlikely) my siblings (being geographically closer) will take every momento away. Which, in theory, is fine except they will never ever look at any of it. Doesn't mean a thing to them. I know this - don't ask why lest I burst into tears.

    Anyway, good luck, Nick. Enjoy the process among many a groan. I find bringing order to chaos most uplifting.


  13. Ursula: It sounds to me as if your father has the right idea - discard anything he finds irrelevant to his life and not keep all sorts of bits and pieces simply for sentimental reasons. It'll certainly make things easier after his death.
    I've also thrown away a lot of personal stuff that was just gathering dust.

    Yes, I also enjoy bringing order to chaos, so I'm getting stuck in now, looking forward to the end-result of a much more manageable situation.

  14. forty???
    speechless really.
    bless you for even ploughing through all that.
    I think I would just start by cancelling each one and asking for the balance sheet and any remaining funds to be sent?
    is that even a way to handle it?
    see. I know so little about it.
    it's a good thing I only keep one simple account!
    what on earth do so many people have against the concept of simplicity?

  15. Tammy: Yep, it's not that simple. There are some long-term bonds that can't be transferred until they mature. So I have to wait until the maturity date. But anything that can be transferred to a single consolidated account will be.

    I'm baffled as to why my mum opened so many accounts. Maybe another aspect of her hoarding tendency?

  16. Forty accounts is a lot to manage and sort out but I'm sure you can do it. Getting dementia is something we don't look forward to in later life but it can happen to anybody and it does.

  17. Treey: It's just a matter of plodding away, sorting out one account after another. I'll get there eventually. Unfortunately, as you say, many of us will develop dementia and then we just have to leave someone else to tie up the loose ends.

  18. Uncle was very good with his finances and his filing until the very last few months, which unfortunately is when he moved a couple of times and money went here there and everywhere. Husband spent best part of last week trying to his tax return. In the end he had to write a 'sorry' letter 'this is the best I can do.'

    40 bank accounts???

  19. Liz: I hope HMRC will accept "the best I can do"!

    Yes, 40 bank accounts. Completely crazy. Why on earth didn't she consolidate them?

  20. Trying to think of why she might have had so many accounts — maybe she simply forgot she had an account each time and kept opening them or — special gifts offered if a new account opened but had to maintain for a specified period of time and just kept opening accts as way to get free money awarded — wanted to spread funds around in case some banks went under others would survive — or received pitches in mail and just thought she needed to follow their directions — or some other warped thinking. Maybe trying to figure out a logical explanation is illogical, but it is intriguing trying to figure out what she was trying to accomplish, or even if there was any rational thought behind it all. Finding the earliest account date when those accounts were being accumulated could indicate when her thinking might have begun to unravel a bit though other aspects of her life could have been in order...most of the time...since weakening is often a gradual process over time and people either don’t recognize it’s happening, deny it, successfully bluff to others they’re having problems, or keep it secret ‘cause they fear family taking over and don’t want to give up independence.

    My husband complained he was beginning to have problems concentrating I noticed, but when he died unexpectedly he had all impt papers in large metal file with titled folders and an itemized list of instructions of what to do with each one. I was familiar with all business which we shared with each other throughout our lives. I’m surprised how many women I’ve encountered who know little or nothing about the financial aspects of their lives and accept being sluffed off when asking for particulars only to be told by spouse words to the effect everything is taken care of, or you’ll be okay so don’t worry. It’s not that simple.

  21. Joared: I'm baffled as to why she had so many accounts. Yes, partly in case one bank or another collapsed. Yes, partly because she was tempted by some special offer. Also because the government guarantee against a bank collapse only goes up to a certain sum for each account. Some of the accounts go back a good ten years so this squirreling-away has been going on for a while.

    Good that your husband had prepared so thoroughly for your having to take over the finances. And yes, I think a lot of wives/partners are still kept in the dark by their menfolk and can have some nasty shocks after they're gone.

  22. Ha Ha Ha!!!!! I can relate too!!! I thought I had it bad with my Father's finances....BUT 40!!! I wonder if that's a record. I think many old people do this. They open bank accounts in the same manner that we start new blogs. Two is always enough.

  23. Scarlet: It's a nightmare. Every bank wants copies of several documents, and only a few of them have branches in Belfast, which means dealing with the others by post. When I've finally sorted everything out, I think a big celebration will be in order. A lavish meal out and a bottle of champagne, I think!

  24. Too right. It's bad enough keeping track of my own paperwork let alone someone else's!

  25. When I finally retired from corporate life, the first thing I did was to close down a number of bank accounts that were opened due to my transfers and other conveniences and transfer all the funds in to one account in a bank near my home. That one action saved me a lot of work every year at the time of submitting my income tax returns. Within that one bank, I have streamlined my various kinds of accounts also into one simple account and now I am more or less totally care free.

    I advice the same to all my relatives and friends with multiple accounts.

  26. Scarlet: Absolutely. I have quite enough paperwork as it is.

    Ramana: Sounds like you were eminently sensible and simplified everything to the maximum at the earliest opportunity. You should have had a word with my mum!

  27. Forty bank accounts?? Good heavens, that's overkill. How could anyone keep track of those without staff?

    Good luck, Nick. You've taken on a mammoth task, but I think you're up to it!

    Swedish Death Cleaning. When my arm gets out of this sling, that's what I'll be doing ... or at least, I'll be making the attempt!

  28. Jay: It seems like an interminable task right now, but I guess it'll all sort itself out eventually. I'm now trying to cancel some expensive direct debits that should have lapsed in early September!

    I hope that if I drop dead, I won't leave Jenny with a nightmare of paperwork chaos....