Can my Power of Attorney alter my account’s designated beneficiary?

Generally, financial institutions that administer registered accounts are extremely reluctant to allow a person that has been appointed as the annuitant’s Power of Attorney to alter the RRSP account’s designated beneficiary. The Power of Attorney can give the financial institution instruction concerning most aspects of the RRSP, but appointing a beneficiary may not be possible.

This restriction may also apply if a Power of Attorney decides to transfer the registered account from one financial institution to another. The transfer will be successful, but the Power of Attorney may not be able to designate a beneficiary on the new account. As a result, the designation of a beneficiary will remain blank and automatically default to the estate.

The new financial institution may not permit the Power of Attorney to complete the designation of a beneficiary, but they will usually permit the designation of beneficiary to remain the same as it was at the previous financial institution. Retaining the original designation of beneficiary can be facilitated by requesting that a copy of the original RRSP account agreement (with the designation of beneficiary) be sent from the original administering financial institution.

Failing proper documentation of the original designation of beneficiary, the designation of beneficiary at the new financial institution will remain blank, thus, the annuitant’s estate becomes the beneficiary by default.

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