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What older Canadians need to know about estate planning

Older persons may need assistance in managing their finances.

Money can be managed for an older person by their attorney for property, acting under power of attorney for the property but setting up joint accounts can also be an option.

power of attorney for property (PoA) is a formal document that appoints an attorney for property authorized to manage the assets. PoA has to be executed (signed) then the person, whose property is to be managed (the "Grantor"). There are formality requirements and the Grantor signing the PoA has to be mentally competent when signing it in order for the PoA to be valid.

A joint account gives two or more people the right to access the monies from that account. The owner of the funds has to authorize the financial institution to add another person as a joint owner to their account. Although when authorizing the bank, the owner of the account must also be mentally competent, joint accounts appear to be less formal than PoA and are often chosen for that very reason.

There are risks and advantages to a joint bank account and to establishing a PoA.

An attorney for property acting under a PoA will be authorized to have access to banks and investment accounts of the Grantor. Conditions and restrictions can be spelled out in the PoA document that will govern how the finances are managed by the attorney - what the attorney can and cannot do. 

A joint bank account provides the joint account owner with unlimited access to the funds on the account and the money can be used to pay bills and other expenses, as needed. However, funds on joint accounts may be exposed to claims of the creditors or spouses of the joint owners and may not be properly accounted for in the estate, leading to litigation.

A knowledgeable Ontario lawyer will be able to provide information to all clients about such estate planning issues. He or she will be able to guide clients in the management of their own assets and available legal options. Estate planning can be complicated, but less so when working with an experienced estate lawyer. 

Source: canada.ca, "What every older Canadian should know about: powers of attorney (for financial matters and property) and joint bank accounts", Accessed on Sept. 11, 2017

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