Garton & Harris

How much authority does a power of attorney really have?

When choosing someone to look after their affairs when they are incapable, Canadians have to keep a few things in mind. Those who hold a financial power of attorney in British Columbia are in positions of authority over someone else's money, so choosing a person who is trustworthy and knows something about finances is pretty important. That being said, there are certain things such a person can't do according to the law.

If the person who has the power of attorney wants to make drastic changes to the grantor's will by renaming beneficiaries or gifting money to family members or charities, he or she could find him or herself in some legal trouble. It all depends upon the laws of the province in which the grantor resides. And the grantor's will should be reviewed to ensure any gifts are keeping in line with an existing will.

As for changing beneficiaries on things like insurance policies or RRIFs, that is not acceptable. But in British Columbia, the person who is acting on a power of attorney has the authority to keep the designation of a registered plan or may change the plan type from an existing type to another. In any case, the person in authority should act diligently since the courts don't often look favourably to such changes unless there is a good reason for the change.

A British Columbia lawyer may be able to offer assistance by explaining legislation governing a power of attorney to a client and/or to the person named as acting on a power of attorney. A lawyer can shed light on the giving of gifts depending upon each client's individual case. A lawyer will always act in the best interests of his or her client.

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