What can I do with a Power of Attorney?

  • You can do any financial transaction that your principal (the one who granted the Power of Attorney) could do, except make a testamentary bequest.
  • You can make changes to RRSPs and insurance contracts, so long as the designated beneficiary remains the same.

We represented a woman whose common law husband had granted her his Power of Attorney.  He had arranged his financial affairs to provide for her outside of his will, thus protecting her from a possible Wills Variation Act action.  As part of this plan he made her the beneficiary of his RRSP held at the bank.  His health was poor, and he granted her his Power of Attorney.  After surgery he became incompetent. 

TD Evergreen was the investment arm of the bank.  An investment counsellor from Evergreen approached our client and convinced her to transfer the RRSP from the bank to Evergreen.  When he sent the forms to her to sign, he left the beneficiary designation blank.  He did not discuss this with her, and she did not realize that this would mean the asset would go to her husband’s estate (and from there to his children) when he died.

At trial the judge decided that the investment counsellor had failed to live up to the duty he owed our client.  He may not have known that she was the beneficiary of the RRSP, but this was because he failed to ask.  He could not properly advise her without knowing whether or not there was a beneficiary.  He had a duty to ask and to give her proper advice with this knowledge.  The Court of Appeal confirmed the trial judgment and said that the holder of a power of attorney has the ability to move investments from one place to another, so long as the beneficiary designation is not changed. 

If you need a Power of Attorney, or have questions about one, we can help.  Contact us.

Read the case:  Desharnais  v. Toronto Dominion Bank

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