The Vancouver Sun published a letter from on April 24, 2013 that has caught my eye – Let’s take tarnish off golden years, by Lillian Zimmerman.

Ms. Zimmerman’s letter and concerns were motivated by a conversation with her financial advisor initiated at the request of his supervisor.  The conversation was about a suggestion for Ms. Zimmerman to appoint a power of attorney (POA) for property, given her age (an octogenarian).

Three points where I disagree with Ms. Zimmerman’s perspectives are:  1-the suitability of the actions of the financial advisor and the financial firm; 2-labelling the actions as ageist; and 3-compression of morbidity as a counter-argument for no POA conversation.

Point 1 of 3 is addressing this specific section of the Vancouver Sun letter copied below in italics:

Very recently I had a phone call from my financial adviser, who is with a major financial institution and has advised me for a number of years.

He was prompted by an email he received from his superiors inquiring about my mental capacity and wondering if perhaps, given my age (I am an octogenarian), I required someone appointed with a power of attorney to manage my finances.

My adviser reported this tongue-in-cheek as we are in touch regularly and he knows of my continuing professional activities.

My Response:

1.     The actions of the financial advisor and his firm were suitable – but not executed very well

Financial advisors have a professional duty to help their clients know how to ensure their wishes are followed even if the client’s situation changes and they become unable to do so.  Financial advisors should be discussing wills and powers of attorney.  Considering that most illness occurs after age 65 it is not surprising that a conversation about powers of attorney for property would be recommended for Ms. Zimmerman.  What is surprising is that, from the information provided, this is the first time that the conversation had taken place between this long-term advisor and Ms. Zimmerman, and, the conversation was prompted by an email from ‘superiors’, rather than from the due diligence of the advisor’s regular practice.  The conversation is important and appropriate so why has it resulted in a negative outcome?

From the recount of the verbal exchange between Ms. Zimmerman and her long term advisor it appears that the advisor has not been properly trained on the importance of this conversation and how to effectively handle client questions and concerns.  Had he been suitably trained the conversation would not have been handled in a ‘tongue in cheek’ manner.   All clients should have POAs and the risks of not having POAs increase with age.