I'm a Financial Power of Attorney, Now What?

Money can be one of the biggest elephants in the room for families. Everyone thinks about it, but no one is talking. Personal finances tend to be a very private responsibility, even for the closest family members. It can be difficult to recognize when someone is in need of assistance, so it is crucial to set up a financial safety net early.

The first step to protecting potentially vulnerable adults is to set up a Durable Power of Attorney, in the event the person is no longer able to make decisions on their own. Some individuals choose to designate a Financial Power of Attorney and a separate Healthcare Power of Attorney to spread out the responsibilities of advocacy throughout the family. 

Tips for a Financial Power of Attorney

Assess the Finances
A good place to get a bird’s eye view is to look at the last tax filings. Make sure that you look at all checking, savings, 401(k)s, IRAs, and any other accounts they may have or are linked to.

Assess Non-Liquidized Assets
This might include things such as stock holdings, property, homes, recreational vehicles, possessions, etc.

Compile Passwords, Accounts, & Contacts
Begin to collect all of the appropriate account, credit, and debit card numbers that you are overseeing. As your name is added to the bank accounts, be sure to ask if there are online banking options previously set up. Collect usernames and passwords to access them. Also ask the bank if there is any other service used that you may be unaware of, such as a safety deposit box. Don’t forget to document the customer service numbers of these entities, should there be a dispute or crisis. Building a relationship with bank tellers and managers will also extend your circle of advocacy for your loved one as they can watch for and alert you of any unusual account behavior.  

Document an Expense Calendar
This will help you get a sense of the regular bill amounts and due dates. As you add your name to the utility accounts, you may want to inquire if any automatic online bill pay has been set up and then gather the username and password information. Be sure to include a list of all bills, especially those with annual or quarterly fees. This schedule will help frame the financial picture and make sure nothing is missed.  

Document Income and Benefits
If your loved one is the recipient of Medicare, Social Security, VA benefits, or pensions, document what they receive and when the disbursements arrive. Whenever possible, sign up to have them automatically deposited. To make sure that your loved one is receiving all the benefits they are due, visit Benefits Check-Up.

Scams and Unwanted Communication
Talk to your family member about online, financial and Medicare scams. One of the most vulnerable and targeted groups for fraud are older adults. Recognize what to look for and be a fire-wall of protection for your loved one. The Federal Trade Commission has created a short video about preventing scams.  

Conversation Before Crisis
Preparation is the best way to counteract crises. Talk openly about wishes and needs, and address expectations. Eventually, you will need to talk about their wishes for the estate and what should happen at the end of life. Helping them document their wishes in a will is one of the ways you can empower them and make sure their desires are shaping the outcomes.

Guidance for Adult Children and Family Caregivers
If you are a Financial Power of Attorney for an aging parent, you are not alone. It can be difficult to understand what type of care may be needed, what is covered by insurance, and what costs can be expected in the future. A Care Manager can help guide you, enhancing your decision-making power. Watch this video about Sound Option's Care Management.

Published on April 12, 2017.