A POA can be used to sever a joint tenancy


You may have seen my article in Your Estate Matters earlier this week on how a joint a tenancy can be severed by a “course of dealings”.  In that same vein, the BC Court of Appeal recently confirmed in Houston v. Houston that the holder of a Power of Attorney can sever joint tenancy so long as the terms of the Power of Attorney don’t contain any restriction that would prevent that from being performed.  The party attacking the acts of the holder of the Power of Attorney argued that severance of a joint tenancy was basically akin to making a new Will (or, as a lawyer would say, “tantamount to a testamentary act”) and therefore beyond the authority of the attorney.  The Court rejected that argument, noting that severance of a joint tenancy, unlike some other acts (like designation of a beneficiary of a life insurance policy), can be done unilaterally and isn’t connected to or dependant on the donor’s death.  So, in the case of Houston anyway, the POA didn’t do anything he wasn’t allowed to do.