By Andrea Needham

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Guidance for Deciding When to Intervene with a Senior’s Finances

No part of aging is pleasant. The gradual loss of independence and frustration with health concerns can be overwhelming. As a relative or close friend of an older adult, you may need to step in and assist with finances to protect your loved one from financial fraud or catastrophe. Learn some of the risks and how to address them, courtesy of Concord Friends of the Aging.

Notice the Warning Signs

Reports estimate that seniors are cheated out of billions of dollars every year by fraud. Alert your friend or relative to the possible scams. Scammers pose as various trusted agencies and individuals online and through social messaging, so educate your loved ones on how to recognize traps. Encourage them to ask for a second opinion before responding to unsolicited messages that are supposedly from the IRS, a sweepstakes company, Social Security Administration, lawyers, or a technical support company.

Watch for small indicators that may result in significant problems. Warnings may include:

  • Forgetfulness about cash and accounts
  • Struggles balancing the checkbook or paying bills
  • Repeat purchases of unnecessary items or a lot of expensive purchases in a short time
  • Unopened mail piling up in the home
  • Declined cards and complaints about not having enough money

Discuss the Issues

Even if you don’t have concerns now, take a more active role in your loved one’s finances, especially after retirement. Discussions about probate, estate, and trust administration early can prevent embarrassing losses and uncomfortable conversations. Maintain a positive atmosphere and discuss the need to prepare for emergencies. Work on your estate plan, involve your loved one in the discussion, and ask them about their arrangements.

Stay calm and respectful during the discussion. Patiently listen to concerns and be transparent. If you need to involve other family members, a written agenda can keep the conversation on track. Keep the meeting to only relatives directly involved. Remind everyone that decisions can be changed later, but starting a plan to protect the family and honor your loved one’s wishes is vital.

Offer Practical Assistance

If your loved one understands the risks they face and wants help, organize things in a way you can work together. Make an account of their total income, assets, and liabilities using credit reports and tax returns. You’ll have an easier time making adjustments and accessing accounts if you receive power of attorney, giving you legal authority to act on your loved one’s behalf. Put your name on accounts for easy access to future documentation.

Compile bills and set up auto payments if possible. If some accounts are already in arrears, communicate honestly with creditors about the situation to work out a payment plan. Credit counseling may help determine your options for consolidation.

If the responsibility of running a business is now too much for your loved one, assist them with selling the company. A professional valuation gives the family an objective understanding of the company’s value before selling. To estimate the market value, the appraiser looks at your assets, including inventory, property, and liabilities. The number helps you avoid being taken advantage of or missing out on a good deal because of unreasonable expectations. The steps you need to take to assist your loved one with their finances vary by the situation. The most crucial factor is that you stay alert and help the person care for issues before challenges become insurmountable problems. With patience and concern, you can help your loved one safely steward their finances.