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In planning for their later years in life, my parents want to have me become power of attorney, and to have control of their banking accounts, etc.

They are still of sound mind, etc, and I wouldn't need to do anything at this point, they would continue to do all banking, etc. I would just be "on their accounts" in case things deteriorate health-wise or one or both of them become injured or suddenly mentally incapacitated, etc.

My questions are:

  1. Does "being on their bank accounts" in a "power of attorney" scenario mean that I would become liable in the event they accrued debts, or got themselves into tax trouble, etc.?
  2. Are there any other "gotchas" or things I should watch out for or consider when entering such an arrangement?

To clarify a few points:

I am quite clear on the responsibilities of being a POA. They are well documented on the govt of Canada's website and many other places online.

I mainly want to make sure I don't end up holding the bag on any debt they may incur after I am added as financial POA but before I actually need to handle their finances and do anything with their accounts at all e.g. they are in their early 60s, and still of sound mind and good physical health, and will still do all of their banking on their own for the time being.

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  • Assuming that Canadian law is similar to the U.S., your parents should be considering a contingent POA versus a durable POA. You might have a problem if the joint accounts are involved in money laundering (g). I don't think that you have liability for your parents' actions if you are not complicit but you should consult with your attorney or your parents' attorney to make sure that you don't end up with a front and profile picture hanging at the post office (g). May 29 '18 at 11:01
  • I wouldn't be liable for illegal activity if I am not complicit, but what about irresponsible activity e.g. taking out a huge loan they can't repay, etc. once I am "on their accounts" ... that is my main concern. I guess I would need to see whatever the bank will have me sign... I have not yet gone in with them to set it all up.
    – GWR
    May 29 '18 at 11:57
  • You have no liability for a bad loan if you are not a co-signer on that loan. By being on their accounts, I take it to mean that you are a JTWROS on their bank, brokerage accounts, etc.. If anything, they have the risk there. I think that you may be conflating POA with being "on their accounts". It's two separate issues. May 29 '18 at 12:12
  • You are probably right, I am new to it all, and when my parents asked me to do it, they talked about both things.
    – GWR
    May 29 '18 at 12:33
  • This link is not a recommendation. I have no clue who this lawyer is. The point is like many on the web, he offers an info page explaining a POA. Perhaps it will help you to understand the choices. Then, you and your parents should meet with their attorney and determine what the best choice is for everyone involved. brianneilburg.com/pageview.php?pageid=6 May 29 '18 at 12:41
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Since you are doing your parents a favor rather than receiving anything from them, you don't incur liabilities or risks from becoming a power of attorney for them.

You do need to make sure to understand your responsibilities as a power of attorney. I don't know Canadian law, but you probably have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure that you are acting in your parents' interest.

You will probably have an attorney draft the power of attorney document, and she would be in the best position to answer your questions.

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  • Yes, I have been doing some reading on the responsibilities of a POA, and I am quite clear on what those are. They are well documented on the govt of Canada's website. I just wanted to make sure I don't end up holding the bag on any debt they may incur after I am added as financial POA but before I actually need to handle their finances and do anything with their accounts at all e.g. they are in their early 60s, and still of sound mind and physical health, and will still do all of their banking on their own for the time being.
    – GWR
    May 29 '18 at 11:50

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