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My Problems with a Mega Bank Part 1 - Wells Fargo


Update 11/18/2011: I'm happy to report that my problem with Wells Fargo has been resolved. I have the details in this new blog post.

I thought it would be useful for me to describe a problem that I'm currently having with Wells Fargo. I haven't mentioned it in the past since it deals with a private matter, but I decided it was worth disclosing since it may be helpful to others. Plus, I'm always open to suggestions, and I know many of my readers have quite a bit of banking experience.

In addition to providing a lesson, the problem also shows an issue that I've seen with mega banks. The issue is when a branch manager is too quick to pass problems to the corporate department instead of taking responsibility of the problem. Once the manager receives the decision from the corporate office, it's declared as the final decision, and nothing more can be done.

Quick Summary of My Wells Fargo Problem

I have a CD receipt from Wells Fargo showing me as the beneficiary of the CD. The owner of that CD has passed away, and I'm trying to access the account. Wells Fargo made a mistake, and I'm not listed as the beneficiary in their system. In addition, they claim the CD receipt that was provided by a Wells Fargo banker when the CD was opened is invalid. Thus, they require a court order which according to my attorney will cost at least $250. I've filed a complaint with Wells Fargo's regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of Currency (OCC). Wells Fargo continues to maintain that the receipt is invalid. The OCC is currently waiting on information from Wells Fargo.

The Details

In September 2010, my dad opened a CD at Wells Fargo. He received from the Wells Fargo banker a CD receipt. This receipt was a two-page document with all of the account information and CD terms. The second page consisted of a form for the names of payable-on-death (POD) beneficiaries. The banker had written my name, and my dad had signed it.

My dad passed away at age 88 in March of this year after experiencing severe heart problems. That was the family matter that I had mentioned in March.

My dad had been investing in bank CDs for the last 30 years. Fortunately, he was careful to ensure all of his bank accounts had beneficiaries (either me or my two brothers). The nice thing about bank account beneficiaries is that it avoids probate. When a beneficiary is listed on a bank account, the beneficiary can access the account after the account owner dies. The beneficiary just needs to show the bank his ID and a certified copy of the death certificate. No court document is necessary.

My brothers and I had no problems accessing all of my dad's CDs except for this one Wells Fargo CD which had me as the beneficiary. Wells Fargo's systems did not show anyone as the beneficiary of that CD.

In addition to being careful about specifying beneficiaries on his accounts, my dad was also careful in keeping the documents from the banks. He had sent me a copy of that Wells Fargo receipt showing me as the beneficiary. I thought that would convince the branch manager that it was their mistake. However, that was not the case.

When I first visited the branch, the manager wasn't there, so one of the bankers assisted me. Since I wasn't listed in the system as the beneficiary, the banker wasn't sure what to do. He called Wells Fargo's legal department and faxed them the CD receipt. After discussing the issue with the legal department, the banker informed me of the legal department's decision that the receipt was not valid.

Wells Fargo's legal department claimed the receipt was only for certain states and it should not have been used for Florida. I informed them that it was the Wells Fargo banker who generated this document and gave it to my dad. If the banker didn't know the receipt was valid, how should they expect the customer to know? I spoke with the branch manager, and the manager took the same position. They view the CD as having no beneficiary. To access the account I need a court order. According to my attorney, I need to go through a summary administration process which will cost at least $250.

Since Wells Fargo is a national bank regulated by the OCC, I filed a complaint using the online form at Helpwithmybank.gov. I submitted the complaint in July.

It appears the first thing the OCC does when they receive a complaint is to forward the complaint to the bank. I received my first letter in response to my OCC case from a Wells Fargo correspondence specialist in August. The letter asked for a copy of the document. I mailed them the copy of the document and made it clear that it was the Wells Fargo banker who gave this document to my dad.

Later in August I received the second letter from the Wells Fargo correspondence specialist. Here's an excerpt of the reply:

Thank you for providing a copy of the POD/ROS Designation for Certificate of Deposit (CD) Accounts. A review of the documentation you provided confirms this document is not valid for the CD account in question. The documentation is only applicable for personal CD accounts opened in the state of North Carolina or Virginia.

I then mailed the OCC a letter stating that I was in disagreement with the bank's reply. Here's an excerpt of this letter:

This documentation which served as a receipt of the CD was given to my dad by a Wells Fargo banker. It was represented to my dad as a valid receipt showing the terms of the CD which included the interest rate, maturity date and the beneficiary name. If the Wells Fargo banker did not know it was invalid, how should the customer know it was invalid?

I'm currently waiting for a reply by either Wells Fargo or the OCC. I recently called the OCC to ask about the status of this case. According to the OCC, they are requesting more information from Wells Fargo.

Final Thoughts

If the OCC sides with Wells Fargo, I'm considering throwing in the towel. I don't like the thought of having to pay for Wells Fargo's mistake, but it's not a major financial blow. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment.

I had hoped that the Wells Fargo branch manager would take responsibility to fix the mistake that one of his bankers made in using the wrong document for the CD. Instead he put the decision in the hands of legal bureaucrats somewhere in the Wells Fargo's corporate offices. I bet a community bank or credit union would have handled this better.


One lesson in this case is to double check the beneficiary listings on your bank accounts. Make sure it shows up in the bank's system. Don't assume the documentation that you received when you opened the CD is sufficient. For those using beneficiaries to extend your FDIC coverage, this is even more important. Make sure the account title shows the trust relationship. I have more details on this in my post Maximizing Your FDIC Coverage with Beneficiaries.

Another lesson is to bank at a credit union or community bank. My dad also had CDs at credit unions, and we didn't have any problems accessing those CDs.

Different Issue Than Extending FDIC Coverage with Beneficiaries

This issue reminded me of the problems that IndyMac CD holders had when IndyMac failed in July 2008. Several CD holders had depended on beneficiaries for additional FDIC coverage. However, IndyMac did not correctly specify the beneficiaries on some of the CDs (no trust relationship in the account title.) When the FDIC took over, those CD holders lost half of their uninsured deposits. In the eyes of the FDIC, it didn't matter if the bank was the one that made the mistake.

I consider my case to be different since it's Wells Fargo which made the decision that the document was invalid, and it was based on the document they generated and their internal policy.

Other Considerations for Beneficiaries Accessing CDs

Fortunately, all the other CDs that had me as the beneficiary did not have this issue. I was able to get access of those accounts without problems. However, many of those CDs were long-term CDs that were not close to maturity. Some of the rates on those CDs were over 5.00%. I'll have more on my decisions in dealing with those CDs in a future post.

My Problems with a Mega Bank Part 2 - Bank of America

My dad also had accounts at Bank of America. We didn't have any problems accessing the Bank of America accounts, but we did have another problem. It was similar to the Wells Fargo issue in that the branch manager was too quick to pass the problem to the corporate office. I'll have the full details of this problem in a future post.

Update 11/14/2011: I completed the post My Problems with a Mega Bank Part 2 - Bank of America.

Related Pages: Wells Fargo Bank, CD rates

Related Posts

  |     |   Comment #1
This is pretty scary.  I have many CD's with benficiaries and now I woory that a clerical procedure could somehow invalidate that.  I am sorry that your adad passes away.  I have dealt with some banks in Massachusetts regarding my mother's death last Christmas.  BoA was very helpful, and even took care of filing for a tax ID number for her estate while I was at the bank.  As far as the cour order goes, I would think that whatever lawyer or accountant is handling the estate would do the court order part of this for less than $250.  My lawyer basically threw in the paperwork for dealing with the banks as part of his total fee which was only $500 for a small estate with a couple complications.
  |     |   Comment #57
I have a situation now I am dealing with.  My spouse passed away recently.  There is a beneficiary account where I was the intended beneficiary.  But the banker downloaded a different name from their database which was close to my name.  My spouse signed it electronically not knowingly.  Neither me or my spouse knows this person.  This was a bank error but they won't admit it.  None of her siblings or their heirs or her friends have that name.  Watch what you sign.  Read the screen, ask for printed copy, read to make sure it is what you want and ask for a signed statement from the bank of the account and beneficiary.  We are in a computer age and everyone wants to do everything fast leaving the mistakes for others to deal with.  
  |     |   Comment #2
If you have a good understanding relationship with your two other brothers, maybe another option may be to let the CD go to the estate.  Getting advice from your attorney, maybe you can work out an agreement with your two brothers that the CD amount goes to you.  I guess using this method would involve probate.  Your attorney should be able to tell you if this would be a better and least cost option.
  |     |   Comment #3










  |     |   Comment #54
I thought a power of attorney on no good after the person who designated  the power of attorney is deceased?  Is this not true?  please advise.
  |     |   Comment #61
POA is only when alive.
  |     |   Comment #4
I think powers of attorney expire when the person dies.
  |     |   Comment #5








  |     |   Comment #58
I have a lawyer but I've just gou d out through Goole that she is a narcissistic sicopath but .y family has been dealing with this for years but i m struggle do bad now u til I need mines and I'm ready for justice weather from her or the bank that let her take it
  |     |   Comment #6
I'm not sure why you are still dealing with the Wells Fargo call center monkies or the branch managers that are unable to help you.  Contact their Executive Customer Relations department.  They will get things straight probably within one day.  http://consumerist.com/2008/09/contact-info-for-wells-fargo-ceo-john-stumpf-and-friends.html
  |     |   Comment #7
To #3, you need to realize that in every state a Power of Attorney ceases to be effective as soon as the grantor dies.  (There are some exceptions when the parties don't realize that the grantor is deceased.)  A Power of Attorney grants the attorney the right to perform actions that the grantor could have done him or herself.  A deceased grantor does not have the power to do anything, hence the attorney does not have the power to do anything.

There is no type of Power of Attorney that survives the death of the grantor.  No matter how you word it, what you call it, or what kind of document you use, the Power of Attorney ends when the grantor passes.

Perhaps you are confusing "Power of Attorney" with the responsibilities of an executor of an estate.

If you are planning on excersing a Power of Attorney to take care of your father's affairs after his death, you should really consult a lawyer.  You will be very disappointed.  And, as with so many problems concerning estate planning, if you don't get it right before your father passes, there is no way to correct it afterwards.

I would also dispute that it would be better if his father had placed him as a joint owner.  If the son had financial problems, the son's creditors could have seized the father's CD.  If the son had marital problems, the son's ex-spouse could have gotten the CD as part of the divorce proceedings.  There are many risks involved in naming a joint owner.

  |     |   Comment #59
I was listed as one of the power of attorney and they wasn't suppose to make any decisions without me if anything over 5000 dollars but every one they made was without me and I have the will they even went as far as updating another releasing all my rights against my dads eill
  |     |   Comment #8
I have a cd with more than one beneficiary with a credit union in order to have ncua coverage greater than 250k.  When I first told the credit union I wanted to do this, they didn't even know what a pod was(It is a tiny credit union with only 9 employees including the president or ceo.  I did speak with the president who called the ncua and figured out what a pod account was.  They sent me a letter saying that I had established 2 beneficiaries  on my account and that my ncua insurance coverage was up to 500k.  However, after reading the article above, it makes me wonder if I am actually covered.  One would think if the author of the above article had a paper given to his dad that he was a beneficiary, common sense would dictate that his father had the intent to make it a pod, but apparently that wasnt good enough.  So how can I be sure that I am covered at this credit union for more than 250k???
  |     |   Comment #9
That's always been a problem with FDIC/NCUA insurance:  You can't get a definitive ruling about whether you are fully covered unless and until the financial institution goes belly up, at which point it is too late to rectify any errors.  Sure, you can study the rules and do whatever you can to comply with them, but if you made a mistake....

The NCUA would look at the credit union's records to determine whether the account was properly set up.  Since this is a small credit union where you can directly access management, ask them if they will look at those records together with you to make sure everything has been recorded properly.   In Ken's case the problem appears to be that the status of the CD didn't get recorded in the bank's records despite the fact his father was given a receipt.   See if you can get a management person to sit down with you and look at the internal records.

  |     |   Comment #10





  |     |   Comment #11
When you finally get the necessary documents to make the withdrawal, tell them that you want the withdrawal in cash, immediately.  That should inconvenience them a little bit, and then you might be able to demand them to pay the fees that you incurred for getting the paperwork in exchange for withdrawal in another form.  I've never tried it before, but a $100k cash withdrawal is not pleasant for the bank in my opinion.
  |     |   Comment #12
I wouldn't be so quick to assume that a credit union would have a better result.  While many CUs are more relaxed and down-to-earth about policies and procedure, some are even worse than a mega bank (depending on how much fear they try to instill in their employees to not make mistakes else face termination).

Arranging PODs and beneficiaries for a CD at a CU are different than at a bank.  At a bank each CD is a separate account, but at a CU each CD you have is basically a sub account of member account (e.g., Alliant CU refers to "Account ID"s and Golden1 uses "Certificate Number").  To properly apply a POD you'd need to convert your member account to a trust or POD account (which will affect all subaccounts), or open up a second account with the CU and have the CDs under that account number (with possibly several accounts if you don't want the same POD beneficiaries for all the CDs).  I expect this paragraph doesn't match the common perceptions of people who read this website, but the NCUA regulations and consumer documents are aligned with what I've described (and had to go through in the case of Golden1).
  |     |   Comment #13
If you happen to take #11's advice, it might not be a bad idea to hire a armoured vehicle with guards to transport your cash withdrawal.
  |     |   Comment #14
$9  Re: "That's always been a problem with FDIC/NCUA insurance:  You can't get a definitive ruling about whether you are fully covered unless and until the financial institution goes belly up,...."

My experience wthe FDIC suggests that you are mistaken. Both the FDIC Division of Insurance and the FDIC Legal Division have employees who are specifically tasked with answering inquiries about deposit insurance coverage. They also spend a lot of time conducting training for bank employees on this subject. Unfortunately, Ken's issue is not a matter that  the FDIC (or OCC) can really do much about. Moreover, with the exception of trusts, the deposit insurance rules aren't that difficult to understand. So, if you've had a problem with deposit insurance, it's likely one of your own making.
  |     |   Comment #15
If I were you and did not get a favorable ruling in this case I would get the court order and then sue Wells Fargo in small claims court to recover the costs of the court order. Just because the toothless OCC won't make them do right doesn't mean that a small claims court judge wouldn't.
  |     |   Comment #16
$14:  Yes, the FDIC/NCUA has employees who are helpful as all get out and genuinely (and patiently) try to answer all of your questions and provide all the advice you might request.  But no FDIC/NCUA employee will issue a letter that is binding on the agency that says "I have personally examined all of your accounts and all of the records of the bank pertaining to your personal accounts and I hereby guarantee that you will be covered completely in the event the bank fails."  No employee is going to personally examine all of your accounts and records and no employee can issue a binding guarantee on behalf of the agency.  In the end it will boil down to "here are the rules and if you and the bank followed them exactly, you are covered."

You can do your research, you can ask for help.  But if you forgot to ask the right questions, forgot to mention some detail you didn't realize mattered, or if the bank ****ed up the paperwork like they did with Ken, you will still be out of luck.

Yes, Ken's issue was not an FDIC issue.  But the commenter #8 asked how he could be sure his credit union didn't **** up his paperwork for insurance purposes.

  |     |   Comment #17
Just wanted to say I'm sorry for what you are going through, Ken. I've never seen a  more obstructionist bank. They refused to notarize a credit union membership application for us on some technicality. (The notary down the street had no problems with it whatsoever.) So they lost our business, at that time a mortgage of more than $250k, and we have no interest in going back. Good luck!
  |     |   Comment #18
Why not get the court document and have Wells Fargo pay the $250 to cover their mistake ?
  |     |   Comment #19
I wish I was posting to offer advice like those passed out by all of the above, but I am not well versed enough to do so.

I will, however, wish you the best of luck, Ken, in hoping that you win without too much headache, although it sounds as if you're close to experiencing a migraine. And my genuine condolences to the loss of your father. When my father passed away, prior to that he saw to it that his financial matters were all in order, just like yours did. Bequeathing everything to my younger brother, which I supported 100% so my mother was well taken care of, he didn't run into any legal financial matters. Not sure who he banked with, however.

Anyways, I also want to pass on a big thank you to all of the above fellas and gals who contributed your thoughts on how to approach this matter, should I be in such a pickle. Also gave a few of you a thumbs up in agreement of how best to remedy such a nightmare. Now I know why I come here to read up on any and all matters regarding banks.

Good luck, Ken! Keep us posted, and I look forward to hearing about the situation with BoA......I think.
  |     |   Comment #20
Sorry to hear of your troubles.    

AARP has a column in their newsletter called "That's Outrageous!".  They and other media outlets might have a consumer advocate you could use on their behalf.  If you give them more bad publicity on top of the debit card charge fiasco, they might cave.  It's your money - don't let them get away with theft!  
  |     |   Comment #21
I once had a problem with a former employer not providing me with my pension information.  So I contacted my local Congressional House of Representatives rep, who got in touch with the company.  In my letter to the Rep, I referred to the federal pension law.

Viola!  Boy, did that company bend over backwards to service me after that.  I was able to cash out my pension and roll it over to an IRA under my control.  

Banks are covered by federal laws, so write your local Congress person for help.  Make them earn their pay!

  |     |   Comment #22
1.  was the cd transaction done over the phone with the 800 number or inside the bank branch? 2.  if the corporate office didn't get the the cd transaction entry plus the paperwork to match it, were the computers down for maintenance or was there a power outage?  3.  did the bank clerk know how to put the transaction in his computer. and told your father the transaction is done?  Just curious.                  
Sam I am
  |     |   Comment #23
Sorry about your loss Ken.  What I would do is get the money out even if you have to pay a legal fee, then sever all relations with Wells Fargo that you have, then sue them in small claims over the legal fee.  I think small claims would go in your favor snce you have everything meticulously documented.
  |     |   Comment #24
Ken, so sorry to hear about the death of your father.  If he meant for you to be the beneficiary, the last thing, imo, I think he would want would be for that ****able bank to get away with cheating you out of what he want you to have.  IMO, it's not a matter of the money but not letting them be able to do this to you is more important.  They have to know they can't win with this or so many others are going to have to suffer the same ordeal!  I agree with some others that you should pay the $250 and then sue Wells Fargo for it's return making sure I got them as much bad publicity on this matter as I could. 

I always feel it is best to be "paranoid" when dealing with any financial institution.  That is why when they don't put my beneficiary's name 'ON" the CD but tell me "it's in their records", I refuse to accept the CD until the make it out as a POD and the name is listed on the CD.  I don't understand legally how they can get away with refusing you the money if "you" have a copy of the CD showing your name listed as beneficiary.  They are trying to tell me now that CDs are just receipts of our transaction but yet if they want to charge us an EWP they say we have to follow the terms of what is written on this so called "receipt".  Everything nowadays seems to be on the side of banks cheating us and until we ALL stand up to them and complain to everyone involved in the banking  system in Washington etc., it will not get better.  

I would write to the Federal Reserve, my senators, the PRESIDENT, and every one in the hierarchy of Wells Fargo about this matter.  You, are Ken our Bankguy, and if they can do this to you, the rest of us may as well keep our money hidden in our mattrasses for sure!   Best of luck to you but please don't let them get away with this.  Heckle them everyway you can and if you know a lawyer who will take your case on a contingency, I would let them know I have a lawyer ready to run with this case and will get media exposure.  "Wells Fargo refuses to honor deceased father's wishes for his beloved son" would be the headlines!  
  |     |   Comment #25
We know you are in Texas. I gather your father opened the account in Florida. You indicate the bank says that beneficiary form is only good in North Carolina or Virginia. (I have to wonder how the Florida branch even got hold of a North Carolina form!) 

I find it negligent that the bank did not list the beneficiary on the computer. Still, that means nothing legally in and of itself. But it suggests that might have happened because at that time they already had decided the form was invalid in Florida. As such, they should have notified immediately! Lack of that notice could make them very seriously liable. But it won't change the legal situation today. 

I wonder whether you could simply present the documents to a Wells Fargo branch in Virginia or North Carolina --maybe even by mail -- and close out the CD there, with its proceeds to you. I don't know that where it was opened and held would be the controlling factor, rather than where the closeout was done. Of course, big national banking operations often will have their operations split into multiple legal entities for different states or regions, so the Florida branches might or might not be able to be transacted on from North Carolina or Virginia. But you might at least try such an end run -- but I admit, I'm doubtful it would work.

The legalities involved here are a bit complicated. In a sense, you are caught between a rock and a hard place. If the POD were valid, then the CD is controlled by the trust. If it is not valid (as the bank says), then the CD is controlled by probate, the court and the executors. If by law it is the latter, then the bank would technically have no power to do anything, could be legally liable if it did. Of course, so too can the bank be legally liable for having done the set up wrong in the first place -- so they better balance out which liability might cost them more! That is, if you wanted to make a big case out of it, and you prevailed, then you could go after them for damages and your lawyer fees over and above the amount of the CD. 

The bank says that form is for Virginia and North Carolina. Have you had it checked by a Florida attorney (of course, that attorney will charge, so there goes your money again) -- while Wells Fargo uses it for those two states, it might happen to also meet the legal requirements for Florida anyway. If so, Wells Fargo would be legally bound to honor it in Florida regardless of which states they made it for. I'll bet all the bank attorney did was look up which state it had been made for, and on that basis alone, nixed it for Florida. But if it were pointed out that it also meets the Florida requirements anyway and thus is legally binding in Florida and must be honored, they might realize that and yield. 

Still, you need to move up the ladder and deal with the executive suite and the lawyers. The branch can't change the legal stance of the bank. 

Do not expect any help from the OCC. They are merely going to take whatever response Wells Fargo gives them, not even look into it or whether it is nothing but a big lie, and then tell you case dismissed on the basis of Wells Fargo saying they are correct. This generally, but especially since your issue hinges primarily on state laws regarding trusts, not on banking regulation. The OCC lacks power to interfere with probate, and the question here is whether probate prevails or it is in a trust. 

As the responder above suggested, IF you and your brothers are on good terms, AND the amount of the CD is not too much, you might find it easiest to let it go to probate and be divided up accordingly, and have your brothers give you the difference. As you know, they can give you $13,000 each per year (or is it $14,000 this year?) tax free. If each did so in December, and then again in January, then by January you could have $52,000 of the CD. If they have wives, the wives also could give you just as much, meaning a total of $104,000 by January. Of course, I know that is a big IF with your brothers; my brothers are jerks. 

Finally, how is the CD set to close? And is its maturity date near? I don't know if when probate controls how the CD would close upon maturity, according to instructions or merely frozen. But if it were set to close to, say, a checking account or savings account, and that account had the beneficiaries set up correctly, then it might be possible to merely let it mature and close to the savings or checking account, and then get the money from that account. But I suspect once probate controls, the bank is not even allowed to close it to a different account, regardless of original instructions. 
  |     |   Comment #26
Hi, I know how stressful this can be--these banks are horriblke--and no one wants to take responsibility--I ALWAYS and so did my parents who openes CDS--with any bank or credit union KEPT COPIES of all signed paperwork and signature cards--each and every time--just to avoid just such as situation---with abnks failing and being taken over ==I a surprised this does not happen a lot more--ALWAYS keep copies of every document you sign with a bank--if it is by mail--copy all befor eit goes out--if in person--insist they make copies for you and keep all with the CD-or in some corresponding file---this may not help u now--BUT it may help in the future--save yourself a headache and just pay the 250---and take care of this trhough the court----
  |     |   Comment #27
I would like to correct Anonymous #7's statement above that there is no type of power of attorney that survives the death of the grantor.  A DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY does.  It springs into effect upon the incapacity or the death of the grantor.  Under a durable power of attorney, the grantor holds the power of attorney until he is "unwilling or unable" to do so or dies. Then the power of attorney is conferred automatically to the person(s) designated in the power of attorney document.  I don't know if durable power of attorney is available in all states, but it is in many states, and I would guess most states.

The durable power of attorney is an important estate planning document, and any estate lawyer worth his salt would recommend it to his clients. Unfortunately, many people are not aware of durable power of attorney.
  |     |   Comment #28
First, my sincere condolences for your loss and for the stress and hassle that is involved in settling an estate.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure there is really any place to hide from obstructionist, stubborn, ignorant, or willful bank managers/legal departments.  My elderly father recently had significant difficulty dealing with being a POD beneficiary of $115,000 in CDs issued by a relatively small community bank  ($583 million in assets, 14 locations all in one state).

His maiden aunt lived to be very old and had not been capable of managing her own financial affairs for many years. Her affairs had been overseen by a relative with financial power-of-attorney.  She had several CDs which had various nieces and nephews listed as POD beneficiaries (different beneficiary for different CDs).  Those CDs usually had rolled over several times.

My father's aunt's power-of-attorney tragically died in a house fire shortly before my great-aunt died.  Any paperwork, such as paper CD receipts, that she might have had was lost in the fire.

Then my father's aunt died.

It is also possible that the CD receipts were kept in my great-aunt's safety deposit box.  However, after my great-aunt died, the estate executor was a corrupt jerk and would not tell anyone what was in the safety deposit box.  (At this point, very small town politics and small town political power enter the picture, and the (corrupt?) probate court system failed the beneficiaries.  And that is a separate issue.)

It is also possible that since the CDs had rolled over numerous times, someone at some time had come across an "old" (never reissued on paper) CD receipt and thrown it out as having a date far in the past.

Anyway, my father tried to settle three CDs issued by 2 different community banks.  Both banks' computers showed my father as the POD beneficiary, and the banks agreed that my great-aunt was dead (death certificate) and that my father was really who he said he was.  But he didn't have the paper receipts for the CDs.

Once my father drove 9 hours each direction to the state his aunt had lived in, and looked one small community bank in the face, they gave him no trouble about the CD they had issued. (Although, my father is quite elderly and driving all that way to deal with the bank in person was quite a strain on him.)

But the other bank refused to deal with him unless he had the paper receipts for the remaining 2 CDs in hand.  (The two CDs came to $115,000.)  The branch manager referred him to the legal department.  The legal department dug in their heels and said he had to obtain a "bond" that would cover the possibility of another person, holding the actual receipt, showing up to claim the CD - even though they agreed that my great-aunt was dead, my father was listed as POD beneficiary in their computers, and that my father had satisfactorily proven he was who he said he was.  The legal department said he could obtain this bond at any insurance company.  However, my parents' big car/house insurance company hadn't the foggiest idea what the bank was talking about.  However, my brother works for a large secondary insurance company and was able to use his contacts in his company's legal department to get the proper bond ... for a fee of 1.5% of the value of the CD (i.e. a fee of over $1500.)

The bank did fork over the CD proceeds once the bond was presented.

As far as we know, the beneficiaries of the other CDs held at that bank were unable to navigate the whole situation and never received the POD CD assets that my great-aunt had intended for them.

Incidently, given my father's personality and age-related cognitive impairment, plus the complications of corrupt small town politics in a different state, taking legal action would probably have been so stressful it would have been the death of either him or me (trying to help him).  Given those circumstances, my brother and I encouraged him to pay for the bond and get the whole thing over with, even though it wasn't fair, justice was not served, and my great-aunt's intentions were not honored.

My parents have their financial assets, including CDs, in revocable trusts.  I would say that at least 50% of the banks they try to deal with (looking for the best local CD rates), haven't the foggiest idea how to deal with a revocable trust - even though my parents live in Florida, which should have quite a few people with revocable trusts set up.  As the successor trustee once my parents die, I'm really dreading seeing what the banks try to pull concerning the revocable trust assets.

  |     |   Comment #29
This situation is part of the recent trend for mega-banks (and even some smaller entities) to use unethical tactics to steal from the customer.

Outside of legal process, the only thing we the customer can do is continue to remove our funds from corrupt institutions en masse, and join forces in advertising these entities.  It will take all of us fighting together, and it will require more visibility than just posting complaints - which is still an all-important first step.

Also suspect the FDIC is complicit, along with the Fed.

These entrenched institutions seem to have forgotten their insane profits are derived from we the people.

  |     |   Comment #30
I'm sorry for the passing of your dad, Ken, you never told us - may he rest in peace.  I'm also sorry for this terrible attitude of the bank.  My banking experience is limited, but you got some terrific advice and I hope you follow the ones that make sense to you.

I wouldn't "throw the towel" at all!  I'd pay the court's $250 and then sue them for it plus all else you can get.  And I like many of the possibilities your well versed members presented to you. 

Fight them to the end Ken!  And best of luck!   :)    Rosedala
  |     |   Comment #31
Sorry that you are dealing with such a problem.  I have no suggestions to offer but did want to mention that Chase "lost" a beneficiary designation for me.  Last year I was opening their "special" savings accounts & when I opened the second account I stated that I wanted the same beneficiary as I put on the first account.  The banker told me that I had no beneficiary - which I did and my paperwork reflected it.  They had just "lost" it in their system. 
  |     |   Comment #33
When I worked for BOA, in the forms deparment, we had different forms for each state because of legal issues.  The forms are often given a form number for printing and control purposes.  I suggest looking for that number to see if it designates a state.  Or get someone to "translate" the form number to see if it designates Florida.  Or if there are terms on the reverse side, see if a state is indicated.   
  |     |   Comment #34
Anonymous #27 is absolutely and unequivocally wrong.

A DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY does not spring into effect upon the death of the grantor.  That is a common myth and a dangerous one.

Here is the Florida statute that specifies when a durable power of attorney is to be effective.  Note that it says NOTHING about the death of the grantor:

709.2108 When power of attorney is effective.—

(1) Except as provided in this section, a power of attorney is exercisable when executed.

(2) If a power of attorney executed before October 1, 2011, is conditioned on the principal’s lack of capacity and the power of attorney has not become exercisable before that date, the power of attorney is exercisable upon the delivery of the affidavit of a physician who has primary responsibility for the treatment and care of the principal and who is licensed to practice medicine or osteopathic medicine pursuant to chapter 458 or chapter 459 as of the date of the affidavit. The affidavit executed by the physician must state that the physician is licensed to practice medicine or osteopathic medicine pursuant to chapter 458 or chapter 459, that the physician is the primary physician who has responsibility for the treatment and care of the principal, and that the physician believes that the principal lacks the capacity to manage property.

(3) Except as provided in subsection (2) and s. 709.2106(4), a power of attorney is ineffective if the power of attorney provides that it is to become effective at a future date or upon the occurrence of a future event or contingency.

And Here is the Florida statute that the specifies when a Power of Attorney is to terminate.  Note that it makes NO EXCEPTION for a Durable Power of Attorney:

709.2109 Termination or suspension of power of attorney or agent’s authority.—

(1) A power of attorney terminates when: (a) The principal dies; (b) The principal becomes incapacitated, if the power of attorney is not durable; (c) The principal is adjudicated totally or partially incapacitated by a court, unless the court determines that certain authority granted by the power of attorney is to be exercisable by the agent; (d) The principal revokes the power of attorney; (e) The power of attorney provides that it terminates; (f) The purpose of the power of attorney is accomplished; or (g) The agent’s authority terminates and the power of attorney does not provide for another agent to act under the power of attorney.
If you are going to make this claim that a Durable Power of Attorney springs into effect upon the death of the grantor, please cite the statute in any state (pick one, go ahead) that has such a provision.
  |     |   Comment #35
First, I join others in expressing sympathy for your loss.  The bank may have behaved unreasonably, but there may yet be a cost-effective remedy.  The bank's position appears to reduce to the proposition that the estate is the proper owner of the CD.  On that logic they would presumably release the funds to the personal representative a/k/a executor of your father's estate on presentation of domiciliary letters and death certificate.

The personal representative would then transfer the funds to you.  Tedious, but as the personal representative is likely a family member or an unpaid friend of your late father the court fees would be avoided. 


  |     |   Comment #36
"The durable power of attorney is an important estate planning document, and any estate lawyer worth his salt would recommend it to his clients."

Let's see what some real lawyers say:



"A Durable Power of Attorney may survive your disability, but it is not immortal.  When you die, it dies.  So your Agent will, upon your death, lose all power to make decisions for you concerning who is to receive your assets.  Do not rely upon a Power of Attorney as a Will substitute.  Get the real thing!"

State Bar of Michigan, Probate and Estate Planning Section:


"Finally, the Durable Power of Attorney terminates at the
time of your death, unless there is uncertainty as to whether you are dead or

New Jersy Court ruling:


"... a
durable power of attorney terminates with the death of the principal, pursuant to N.J.S.A.
46:2B-8.5(a), an agent acting in reliance on an executed written power of attorney,
durable or otherwise, may continue to act on that power in good faith only until receipt of
actual notice of the principal’s death. See also 1-12 LEXISNEXIS PRACTICE GUIDE NEW
JERSEY ELDER LAW § 12.39 (“A power of attorney terminates upon the death of the



"I had a client call me last month after her mother passed away.  She wanted to know why she couldn’t use the Florida durable power of attorney (DPOA) she had for her mother to close out a bank account.  I explained to her that the DPOA is only effective while someone is alive; once that person dies, the DPOA dies with them." 



"A durable power of attorney allows you to choose a person you trust to handle your financial affairs if you become incapacitated and can’t handle them yourself. If you don’t have a durable power of attorney and become incapacitated, a guardianship may be necessary. Guardianships are expensive and cumbersome and can be avoided with a durable power of attorney.

However, the agent’s power ends when the principal dies. At that point, the personal representative of the estate takes over to wind up the deceased person’s estate. The estate is distributed according to the decedent’s Will if he or she has one, or according to the Texas intestacy statutes if there is no Will. The power of attorney does not control."

  |     |   Comment #37
Re:  #35.

>>The personal representative would then transfer the funds to you.

Actually, wouldn't the personal representative be obligated to distribute the funds in accordance with the provisions of the will or of the state's intestacy laws, as appropriate?
  |     |   Comment #38
Anonymous #37 thoughtfully observed:

Re:  #35.

>>The personal representative would then transfer the funds to you.

Actually, wouldn't the personal representative be obligated to distribute the funds in accordance with the provisions of the will or of the state's intestacy laws, as appropriate?


But there is no contradiction.  If as a matter of law the CD's beneficiary is Ken, and not the estate, the personal representative will be acting properly by transfer of the funds to its rightful owner. 

Ken spoke as if the issue was clear in law, lacking only an onerous court fee or resolvable by a bank officer or by the action of a low-level employee of a government regulator, that is, a practical, not legal matter.

If Ken does not in law have right to this money it would be wrongful of him to claim it, and if within the purview of the personal representative, rightful for him to contest Ken's claim in the name of the estate.

AND, please note: this and my previous post are not legal advice, they are my opinion only.

  |     |   Comment #39
yea, probate then sue them, in discovery ask how many others this happen to...  its a massive mistake of their own making and they need to be held responsible
  |     |   Comment #40
wasn't wachovia accounts taken over by wells fargo the same year your father got his cd?  I'd check the old wachovia records.
  |     |   Comment #41

This is Doug from Wells Fargo. I have escalated your post to our Time Deposit account team. Can you email me with additional information so we can help? We need your name, telephone number and if you have it, the branch in Florida you interacted with. You can email that information to [email protected].


  |     |   Comment #42

Depending on the dollar amount of the CD, Wells Fargo has something called a "Small estate affidavit"  I believe if its under $25,000, you can just go in sign the affidavit, and they will cut you a check.  The total value of the estate must be under that threshold, but the other CD's would not count towards it because they were POD, so not under the estate.


Also do you have copies of the statments from the CD?  If it was properly set up you name would be on the statement as POD, further proof it was done right at some time.
  |     |   Comment #43
I would think the mistake would be covered under the bank's Errors and Omissions insurance policy. I see there is a comment above from Wells Fargo. I hope that means this will get resolved quickly.
  |     |   Comment #44
Interesting that Wells Fargo suddenly appears on this blog as supportive after your months of effort and expense proving THEIR error. 

Wells Fargo made $4 Billion in PROFIT (that's after paying all expenses) for the THREE months ending 9/30/11.  If you made 16 Billion a year off your customers' money, would you treat your customers like they do?

From your story it is apparent that "errors" are a profit strategy for Wells Fargo. Which indicates those so-called "errors" are intentional.

  |     |   Comment #46

This is Doug from Wells Fargo. Reaching out again to let you know we're standing by to help. Please email us at [email protected] so we can get additional information to assist. 


  |     |   Comment #47
  |     |   Comment #48
Thank you.

  |     |   Comment #49
I am far from happy with the way Wells Fargo conducts their bank for several reasons, I will be moving my accounts from them in the near future, I have found their advise and procedures far from being satisfactory, service somewhat inept.


  |     |   Comment #50
We are dealing with an almost identical issue for a $100K Wells Fartgo savings account with four beneficiaries POD.  First they tell us there are no beneficiaries on the account.  Then they "lost" the certified letter from our attorney requesting information--the one they signed for.  Then they advise that we must complete an affidavit signed and notarized by the three surviving children to access the accounts and get them paid out to us.  After we do this, they changed their tune and suddenly there are now four beneficiaries POD for this account and we need to come in to the branch and fill out Substitute Form W-9, after which they can pay out the monies to all beneficaries.  Now they have changed their mind again and say that an affidavit is now required from the fourth beneificary, bla , bla,bla. What a bunch of incompetent suckbags. If I had employees that ****ed up this badly, they'd be fired on the spot. It's unbelievable just how stupid these people really are about something that can't be THAT difficult to do.  Nobody in the branch offices seems to know what to do or how to do it and I cannot imagine that this type of instrument is that rare.  One would think that they must be breaking new ground on the forefront of banking for it to be this difficult. Geez.

All the mega-banks are the same.  They are all lying, greedy sacks of crap douchebags that steal money from honest, hard working folks and line their pockets. The love of money is the root of all evil and that is evident by the behavior of big banking.

I don't think we will ever see any of this money.  Wells Fartgo will just keep playing games and run us around and around on wild goose chases.  I hope they get robbed and beaten mercilessly.  Then they will know what their customers feel like. 


What's the difference between a banker and a sperm?  A sperm has a one in a million chance of becoming a human being.
  |     |   Comment #51
yeah, but Warren Buffet, thinks they're a great stock.
  |     |   Comment #52
Did you ever get your money out of Wells Fargo?  Hopefully by now!  :)
Ara and Spirit
  |     |   Comment #53
I realize this thread is a bit old but this is the only information I am finding through Goggle. My problem is not as severe. My Mother who passed away in Germany a couple months ago has a POD account naming me [only child and my Father has passed away many years ago]. I am in Germany now fighting the Bureaucracy [that is nother nightmarish story!] and no Wells Fargo Bank will tell me exactly what I need upon my return. I don't want to leave the Country without the proper documentation such as an "International Certificate of Death" with the "German Apostille Stamp". I cannot myself find the phone number of the Legal department, Branch Managers will not give it to me. How do I access their Legal department? Thanks. Ara
  |     |   Comment #55
So sorry about your Dad's passing and also for all the problems you encountered with the POD on this account.  I have copies of POD paperwork that I did but after reading your information, it prompted me to call my bank and check to make sure that it is in their "system". Well, they don't have it in their system.  Wow, had I not read your posting, I would not have called to make sure as I thought my having copies would be sufficient evidence for me & my beneficiaries.  So now I am off to the bank for them to correct this problem.  I want to sincerely thank you for sharing your story otherwise my beneficiaries would have had a real problem.  Thanks again for helping us!!!!! 
  |     |   Comment #56
It's been a long time since I have read this thread.  I thought I had all my ducks in a row with PODs but tomorrow I think I will start calling ALL my banks and credit unions which I have PODs with and verify they have it listed in THEIR records.  I thought since I have copies for the POD person to show to the institutions with their name as POD that they would not have a problem.  Now I am not sure so I will start calling them for proof.   One of the best things I like about DA is that we can always reread info from years back and be reminded of what we may have forgotten.  This thread just accidentally popped up this afternoon and I got to reread it. 
  |     |   Comment #60
My mother made me POA and beneficiary of her checking account. The representative made sure I had an original POA document and scanned it to the legal department. I explained to the representative that the beneficiary was very important and to make sure it was done. He held up the form signed by my mother and stated it was all done. After my mother passed, I went to Wells Fargo to change the account to my name. I was told there was no record for a beneficiary. I asked  the manager if she would ask the representative because he would remember. I was told he quit and I had to get a court order. After I got the order, I got access to the account. The representative also started to tear page 1 of the court order from page 2. Don't ever let a representative do that. It is destroying a legal document.  Six months later, the  account was frozen. I was told that there was no record of the court order. Thankfully, this time the representative hadn't quit and I got it straightened out the next day. Wells Fargo cost me $2,0000 in legal fees and really could care less.
  |     |   Comment #63
One must confirm "things" in writing!!!
  |     |   Comment #64
Wells-Fargo and I, the legal heir (willed to me)-contacted them after my parents passed away, since 2007, are still giving me the run around regarding two trusts.  I provided them with all they requested, yet, they still deny me my inheritance.  I was able to speak with John Stumpf, CEO Wells-Fargo, 2014, and he passed me off to underlings who, to date, refuse to acknowledge the funds are mine.  The only heir, their daughter.  I just filed a complaint with the OCC.  I was told they have my parents trusts, but refuse to transfer them to me.
I want to trust the O CC will be an advocate on my behalf.  I can provoke, and sent them proof, that I am the sole heir.  These big banks are taking away money from rightful owners after their parents passed.  This seems unimaginable, yet, it happens every day.
  |     |   Comment #65
I came across your article while researching a problem with Wells Fargo I had today. My father passed away 4 months ago, and all of his accounts were POD except one WF checking account. He lived in Virginia at the time of death, therefore I filed a Virginia small asset estate for this account in the court there. They gave me affidavits to have signed and notarized by myself and my brothers, as the heirs under his will. I presented them to Wells Fargo, along with his death certificate, but after faxing them to be reviewed by their legal department, I was told that because the account had been opened in NC, I had to file in the NC court system as well. I guess more legal fees need to be incurred before I can access the account and distribute the funds!
Upset with WF
  |     |   Comment #66
WF claims they can't find a CD that was purchased at a bank they aquired by my deceased mother, I've given them every document they wanted, I have nothing from them as to proof of the where abouts of the cd. I'm at my whitts end with them, anything to keep our money they will do, it's wrong. I'm not sure what to do next.
  |     |   Comment #67
Escalate and/or suggest that they may be having cash flow problems and you want to talk to someone about filing an involuntary petition of bankruptcy...talk to your own attorney FIRST.
  |     |   Comment #68
It is hilarious that a Wells Fargo ad shows up on this page.
  |     |   Comment #70
I know a good company can help you in getting an apostille stamp for Florida.
check this link: https://www.usapostille.com/states-services/florida/

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