Gaining control via power of attorney

Q My husband, through a legal settlement with his family last year, has established accounts with a number of different financial institutions. But he has had physical difficulties that sometimes make it impossible for him to visit the institutions. The accounts were all set up quickly in his name, not as joint accounts. If I took out a power of attorney to help him with the accounts, something he would now like, would I need an agreement with each financial institution? If he were to be incapacitated, how much discretion would I have? What if he were to pass on?

R.J., New York

A" You will need to have a lawyer draft a durable power of attorney document, which you will then show to each financial institution," says David Bendix, who heads up Bendix Financial Group, Garden City, N.Y.

"Each institution will enter your name into their computers. But if you need to cut a check for your husband, the check will usually be made out to him," he says. "You could always personally access the funds by depositing it in a joint account you share with your husband."

In case of his demise, the accounts would likely go to probate court, Mr. Bendix says. "To avoid probate, have your husband transfer the funds into joint accounts with you."

Q I've opened a small Christmas Club account, which I've done every year since I graduated from college. Friends laugh. Isn't such an account a good way to earmark funds for the holidays?

M.W., New York

A "Christmas Club accounts, which usually pay little or no interest, are 'old school,' " says Bendix. "Few open them now. Why not open an interest-paying savings account instead, and earn a few dollars? Or, put the money in a high-paying savings account [such as a money market], and then exercise discipline in not touching that money until the holidays."

Questions about finances? Write:

Guy Halverson

The Christian Science Monitor

500 Fifth Ave., Suite 1845

New York, NY 10110

E-mail: halversong@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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