As those we love get older, there will most likely come a time when they need to rely on a trusted family member to manage their finances. More often than not this is a situation that occurs between children and their elderly parents, and It can be a tricky subject to bring up – you might feel uncomfortable talking about their finances, and they might not like the idea that you’re suggesting they need some help!
But, the truth is, that getting older brings with it many challenges – dealing with finances being one of them – and having support measures put in place, particularly for if there is ever a time that your loved ones won’t be able to make decisions on their own, will be beneficial to everyone.
There are a few reasons that you might feel that your elderly relatives need help managing their finances, for example:
-They are currently ill or in hospital and therefore temporarily unable to deal with their own finances
-They’re starting to find all the details pertaining to finances overwhelming or confusing
-They live with a condition such as dementia that affects their understanding and their capacity to make decisions
-They suffer from a disability that makes things difficult; for example a mobility issue that means they can’t visit a bank or post office, or a problem with their sight or dexterity which makes reading or signing paperwork difficult.
It’s important to remember that for a lot of people, getting older can feel like losing control of your life little by little, and your elderly parents or loved ones will want to stay in charge of their own finances and hard-earned money for as long as possible, so it could just be a case of doing a mini checklist regarding their wishes – just in case – rather than taking over.
-Where do they keep important paperwork?
-Who do they bank with?
-Do they have future plans for savings or investments?
-Where do they keep their savings?
There’s no need to ask an elderly loved one for their account passwords or PIN number – especially as accessing someone else’s account is actually a criminal offence – but it is a good idea, if you involved in managing their money, to know how much they have in their current account, and to perhaps discuss with them transferring some into savings. That way, if they were to fall victim to a scam, for example, or even lose their debit card while out shopping, the stress and upset is minimised.
But what if just being in the know isn’t enough? What if they need more hands-on help?
what other things can you do to ensure that your elderly loved one’s finances are well-looked after?
Suggest Setting Up A Power of Attorney
A power attorney is a written authorisation that gives someone the power to act on another person’s behalf in business or private affairs. If your parents or relative appoint you power of attorney you’ll be able to manage their day to day finances if they are unable to do it themselves.
The power of attorney doesn’t have to come into force right away, but setting it up while your loved one has a mental capacity is very important in order to avoid a much more lengthy and complicated legal process in the future.
Of course, until a power of attorney needs to be actioned there are other ways you can help an elderly loved one to manage their finances. With their permission you could:
Set Up A Third-Party Mandate
A third-party mandate tells a bank that they can accept instruction from a named person who isn’t the account holder, but is acting on their behalf.
If your loved one appoints you as the ‘third party’, you’ll be able to operate the account on your relative’s behalf; make calls and query statements, but you won’t be able to arrange an overdraft or open or close an account.
Set Up A Joint Account
Another idea is to set up a new joint account with your loved one so that you both have access when it comes to managing the account or sorting out any problems. Be aware though that you’ll be jointly liable for any debts, as well as both liable to pay any income tax or inheritance tax.
Managing bank or building society accounts are only one aspect of finances that you might, in time, have to take care of for an elderly relative. Another is helping with the payment of household bills.
Helping To Pay Bills
For older people, keeping up with the payment of utility bills and council tax etc can be an additional worry – especially if they rely on paying in person at the post office or by cheque. If they live with a condition such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, some bills might get forgotten which can lead to debts and extra stress and confusion.
You can help simplify the process by helping to set up direct debits for bill payments or volunteering to go and make those payments for them.
Setting Up Direct Debits
Some companies offer discounts if bills are paid by direct debit, so if an older relative isn’t keen on the idea at first you might be able to persuade them by pointing out that they can save money – it’s also a great way to spread the cost which can help with budgeting, particularly if they are on a limited income.
Your loved one can set up a direct debit by contacting their service providers and requesting a direct debit mandate form to complete and sign. It will be much easier to keep track of bills and to ensure that they are all paid on time – not to mention they won’t have to worry about getting themselves to a post office if they are unwell, the weather is bad, or if they have mobility issues.
You Could Act As A Third Party
Utility companies will normally only speak to the person named on the account, but if your relative contacts their provider and explains that they give permission for a third party to deal with the account on their behalf, you’ll be able to take care of the bills and speak to them about any problems without becoming liable for any money that is owed.
With a little help, an older person can retain control over their finances even if they are sometimes confused about payment processes or struggle to remember key details about payments such as amounts and dates.
If you want to know more about caring for an elderly loved one in their own home, and what things you can do to make things easier, please get in touch with us at Care In Kent and find out what we can do to help.