People finding themselves having to manage another person’s affairs can underestimate their liabilities and in fact the issues facing those granted powers of attorney can be extremely complicated, says Pamela Cross, a partner with the Ottawa office of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP and regional leader of the firm’s Tax Group.

'There’s historically not been a lot of oversight on what attorneys do for people. Then the person dies, and the beneficiaries of the estate say, ‘Where did all the money go?’ That’s where you’re going to find some of the issues,' she says.

Particularly challenging, Cross adds, is the requirement to balance the current needs of the incapable person with his or her wishes in the will. 'They have to look after the best interests of the person. But then they have to keep in mind Aunt Betty’s wishes under her will, which may not be the most convenient thing to deal with. If you’re going to do anything that might affect what Aunt Betty’s will says, you have to be aware that [your decisions] might be challenged by a beneficiary who gets disinherited because of some actions taken.'