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Why you should protect your investments by naming a trusted contact person

In his personal finance column for CTVNews.ca, Christopher Liew outlines the key benefits of naming a confidant to take over your financial responsibilities, if the need ever arises (fizkes / Getty Images) In his personal finance column for CTVNews.ca, Christopher Liew outlines the key benefits of naming a confidant to take over your financial responsibilities, if the need ever arises (fizkes / Getty Images)
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If something unexpected happened to you today, who could you trust to take care of your affairs?

Appointing a trusted individual to help you handle your financial obligations can provide you with peace of mind by providing an extra layer of security. This can be particularly useful in unforeseen circumstances that could impair your ability to manage your finances, such as health issues or cognitive decline.

From preventing fraud to ensuring your investment choices reflect your true intentions, I’ll discuss some of the key benefits of naming a trusted confidant to take over your financial responsibilities.

What is a trusted contact person?

A trusted contact person acts as a safeguard, providing your financial institutions with a reliable point of contact in situations where you may be unreachable or unable to manage your affairs, according to RBC Bank.

This individual does not have the authority to make decisions about your accounts or access your funds directly. Instead, their role is primarily advisory, alerting your advisors or bankers to potential red flags or unusual activity that might suggest financial exploitation or cognitive decline.

By establishing a trusted contact, you ensure that someone familiar with your circumstances can provide context or raise concerns to your financial institution, helping to protect your investments while respecting your autonomy and privacy.

A trusted contact could be a:

  • Friend
  • Direct family member (mother, father, sibling)
  • Indirect family member (cousin, aunt, uncle, grandparent)
  • Business partner
  • Spouse or personal partner

Essentially, your trusted partner could be anybody in your life. The key point here is that you trust them with your financial well-being.

Benefits of having a trusted contact

Some of the key benefits of having a trusted contact include:

  • Fraud prevention: A trusted contact can help detect and prevent fraudulent activity before it causes significant damage by serving as an early warning system and alerting financial institutions to suspicious activities that could otherwise go unnoticed.
  • Continuity during emergencies: In cases where you're incapacitated or unable to communicate, a trusted contact can reliably communicate your circumstances and preferences to your financial advisors.
  • Support during cognitive decline: As you age, the risk of cognitive decline increases. A trusted contact can help manage financial matters discreetly and respectfully, ensuring that your financial decisions reflect your wishes, even if your ability to oversee accounts diminishes.
  • Emotional peace of mind: Knowing that someone you trust is there to oversee and protect your financial interests can provide emotional peace of mind and confidence that your finances are in safe hands.

Setting up a trusted contact: legal & practical steps

Here are some practical steps you can follow to set up a trusted contact to help handle your financial responsibilities if the worst were to happen.

Choose your trusted contact

Identify someone who’s reliable, financially savvy, and genuinely has your best interests at heart. This could be a family member, a close friend, or a trusted advisor.

Here, it’s best to have an unbiased approach.

Often, your “closest” friends and family members won’t be the best choice, as they may be too emotionally involved. Instead, I would recommend choosing a contact who you have a good standing relationship with, but who’s able to keep a cool head and logically approach financial issues.

Obtain legal advice

Consult with a legal professional so you properly understand the implications and ensure the role of your trusted contact is clearly defined and compliant with applicable laws. This will ensure that they have the power to make necessary decisions and will also prevent them from making certain life-changing decisions you wouldn’t want them to have power over.

Document your decision

Finally, you’ll want to formally document your trusted contact. This may involve filling out forms provided by your financial institutions, drafting a letter outlining their roles/responsibilities, or getting personal contracts formally notarized and approved by your lawyer.

Maintaining a relationship with your trusted contact

Once you’ve assigned responsibilities to said trusted contact, it’s also important for you to maintain a relationship with them. In the event that life events do go south, this will help to ensure that they best fulfill the role you need them to.

Annual reviews

Schedule annual meetings to review your financial situation and any changes in your personal life that might affect your investment strategy or needs. This keeps your trusted contact well-informed and prepared to act on your behalf if necessary.

Immediate updates for major changes

Notify your trusted contact immediately of any significant changes, such as alterations in your health status, financial goals, or family circumstances. This ensures they have the latest information relevant to your financial decisions.

Reassessing their role

It’s a good idea to periodically reassess your relationship with your confidant. As your situation evolves, so too might your need for a trusted contact or the person best suited for this role.

Perhaps the individual you originally named may not be the person for the job anymore. Or, perhaps, they still are, but will need to learn and adapt more to better handle the responsibilities you may plan to pass on to them.

Regular feedback

Encourage open dialogue whereby your named contact can provide feedback on their experiences dealing with your financial institutions or managing your affairs. This can help identify areas for improvement in how they fulfill their responsibilities.

It can also help you identify potential problems with your financial agents that can be improved upon or fixed, so they don’t become major issues when you’re unable to deal with them (i.e., worst-case scenarios).

Final thoughts

In the best-case scenario, you shouldn’t ever have to rely on a trusted contact person. For everybody reading this now, I hope you have a healthy, prosperous life.

However, the unexpected is nothing if not … unexpected.

By keeping a trusted contact well-informed and actively involved in your personal and financial life, you can create a layer of safety around your financial life and investments, ensuring that it aligns with your beliefs and goals and that those you care about are adequately cared for.

Not sure how to start creating a nest egg for yourself? One of the best ways is to start living a more debt-free lifestyle, which will allow you to set aside more for your savings and investments.

Christopher Liew is a CFA Charterholder and former financial advisor. He writes personal finance tips for thousands of daily Canadian readers on his Wealth Awesome website.

Do you have a question, tip or story idea about personal finance? Please email us at dotcom@bellmedia.ca.

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