The Situation

Your clients are aging. And just like doctors, advisors monitor clients regularly.

You owe them a duty of care to discuss aging issues before it’s too late. If they become incapacitated and haven’t designated a legal Power of Attorney(POA), it will be more of a challenge to advise them and you could run into privacy problems.

Watch for cognitive, hearing and visual problems in all your conversations and meetings. For example, have their signatures changed? Do they ask you to speak louder? Would they rather you come to meet them? Do they remember details from recent meetings?

If you suspect an aging client is declining:

Do you have your will up-to-date and your POA forms prepared? Do your designated POA and executor know where to find these documents easily?
Do we have all your information on file?
Can I suggest some resources to help you and your family?
Are you worried about outliving your money?
Is today still a good day and time for our meeting?
So, how are you doing?

Stick to the facts

For example, your notes could state, “In January, we had an NSF cheque since Joseph used the wrong chequebook. He requested duplicate tax returns because he lost the originals. In July, he cancelled his golf membership as his hip was bothering him. We re-booked the October meeting as his cataract surgery was delayed.”

Those notes let you start a discussion around the client’s well-being. You could say, “You said you hoped the hip surgery would make a difference in terms of your travel plans. Are you still planning that big trip?” Giving your client perspective based on an impartial record opens the door for a non-judgmental conversation.

You can then progress to specific topics, like the NSF cheque. Ask, “Could you explain what happened with your cheque book? So I’m doing everything in your best interest, let me offer suggestions to assist you with your daily finances.”


The definition of capable differs from province to province. Having capacity to manage a stock portfolio is a decision for the client to make along with his power of attorney and a qualified third party (usually a healthcare provider). You must always assume clients are capable of making a decision.

Rhonda Latreille, CEO of Age-Friendly Business in Vancouver, suggests advisors seek guidance from their firm’s compliance and legal departments.

You can also request a capacity assessment to confirm if a client needs a legal POA. That way, she can’t say she was simply having a bad spell and take over the accounts again—only to find it too difficult later.

Originally published in Advisor's Edge