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BMO Harris Private Banking

BMO Harris Private Banking

July 15, 2013 07:00 ET

BMO Estate Planning Study: Selecting an Attorney for Financial or Personal Care Takes Careful Consideration

- Two-thirds of Canadians with a will have put a power of attorney in place

- Family dynamics, availability and emotional stability affect the choice of Attorney

- Talk It Out: Having the conversation early on can reduce challenging consequences down the road

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - July 15, 2013) - With summer in full swing and many looking forward to vacation time spent with family and friends, BMO encourages Canadians to take some time to consider and discuss their estate issues, including who will have power of attorney over their affairs should they become incapacitated.

According to a BMO Harris Private Banking study, more than two-thirds (69 per cent) of Canadians with a will have completed the necessary paperwork to appoint someone to act as their attorney.

A power of attorney is a legal document whereby a person can appoint one or more individuals to be his or her representative in case of incapacity or an inability to make decisions. The attorney appointed can be given general responsibilities or a limited role such as handling only finances, making decisions related to healthcare or managing a business.

"Your will and appointed executor ensure that your assets are dealt with according to your wishes at death, while a power of attorney provides for the proper management of your property, financial affairs and healthcare during your lifetime should you become mentally or physically incapable, or have to be absent for an extended period of time," said Sara Plant, Vice President and National Director, BMO Harris Private Banking. "Not planning for this contingency can potentially have disastrous financial and personal implications, not only for you, but also for your family and loved ones."

The study revealed that an overwhelming 90 per cent of those with a power of attorney have appointed someone to address their finances, while 87 per cent have appointed someone to take care of their healthcare needs. Ms. Plant noted that whether your attorney has general or specific responsibilities, important considerations on who to appoint include:

  • Location
  • Family dynamics
  • Character
  • Availability
  • Financial skills
  • Emotional stability

Ms. Plant also highlighted that the choice of attorney can impact an entire family, particularly those consisting of several generations or a blended family.

"You can name almost anyone to act as attorney, be it a family member, friend or trust company," said Ms. Plant. "However, it's critical that the person you choose is someone you can trust."

Ms. Plant reminded Canadians that, rather than making incapacity planning a future 'To Do,' families should ensure that it is an integral part of their comprehensive financial and estate plans today.

BMO Harris Private Banking offers the following tips to consider when deciding who you will choose to have power of attorney:

  • Talk It Out: Have an open and honest discussion with the person you are thinking of naming. Discuss your finances, property, personal care and anything else you deem important and ensure they are comfortable with the duties and with carrying out your wishes. When they agree to the role, prepare the proper documents and tell them where they are kept.
  • Secure Your Business: If your business is large and complex, you may need someone with business experience and who is familiar with the company to manage it. In this situation, consider choosing two individuals: one for your business and one for your personal finances and non-business property. Consult a lawyer to prepare documents accordingly, ensuring that one does not revoke the other.
  • Understand the Law: Joint ownership is not necessarily an adequate incapacity planning tool and family members are not automatically authorized to act on your behalf if the need arises. Seek legal advice to understand your best options and, if necessary, prepare power of attorney documents.
  • Know the Role: An executor handles your estate after you pass away but has no authority during your lifetime. An individual who has power of attorney makes decisions while you are alive yet incapacitated. Make sure the people you choose understand the difference and know when their roles commence and end.

For more information on BMO Estate Planning: www.bmo.com/estate.

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