Today’s guest blogger is Sandra McKinnon, Human Sciences Specialist in family finance serving southwest Iowa.
Are you managing money or property for a loved one who is unable to pay bills or make financial decisions? According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 40% of those over 60 years old have a power of attorney. That amounts to over 26 million people in the U.S. with this responsibility.
Being legally designated as power of attorney is one of 4
different types of financial caregivers, also known as a fiduciary. You must be
trustworthy, honest and act in good faith.
Other types of fiduciaries include: a court-appointed guardian of property (known as a conservator); a government fiduciary (such as a Social Security representative payee); and a trustee under a revocable living trust. Each of these is a separate responsibility.
Each has duties, powers and responsibilities. In general,
there are 4 basic legal duties of a fiduciary:
- Act only in best interest of your family member
- Manage their money and property carefully
- Keep their money and property separate from your
- Keep good records and report as required
Another role of a financial caregiver is to watch out for
financial exploitation and be on guard for consumer scams. If you suspect
exploitation of an older adult, call the Eldercare Locator 1-800-677-1116 or
visit www.eldercare.acl.gov. They
will assist you in finding the state or local agency that investigate.
For more information, visit https://www.consumerfinance.gov/consumer-tools/managing-someone-elses-money/
or seek guidance of an appropriate legal professional.
My brother recently attended a medical conference in which a lawyer spoke about the physician’s responsibility when providing care for someone who is unable to make medical decisions for themselves. If a patient has not completed a Power of Attorney for Health Care, the doctor is required to listen and weigh the concerns of all family members when caring for the patient. Speaking from our personal experience, my brother and I did not struggle while communicating with caregivers and making decisions for dad; we knew what dad’s wishes were and the two of us shared dad’s values and faith. Additionally, as Dad’s POA for Health Care, it made it easier for me to say “no” when a family member made a request that was clearly not in line with his wishes…even when there was support from a fourth sibling for that request.
In comparison, the family of my brother’s wife is learning (the hard way) what happens when someone has not designated a Power of Attorney for Health Care. Their mother had a major medical emergency that has left her unable to communicate her wishes. Early on in her health emergency, there were 8 – 13 people in her room at all times and an additional 3 – 5 being consulted by phone; basically, they were making decisions by a majority vote while under stress and in an emotional state. Can you imagine being the physician in this example…having to listen and weigh the concerns of all family members?
The Finances of Caregiving is a series of five 2-hour workshops to expand your understanding of options and to help families plan together for providing care for a loved one. Understanding your choices is only possible when you know your current situation. This series guides you through finding and collecting that information, and includes the importance of identifying a Power of Attorney for both Health Care and Financial matters. For more information on this program, visit https://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/finances-caregiving