(The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: Bifocal, Vol. 37, Issue 1.)
Millions of Americans are managing money or property for a family member or friend who is unable to pay bills or make financial decisions. We’ve heard from these financial caregivers about how tough it can be.
Kristin in Virginia had to take over financial management for her 35-year-old brother when he suffered a traumatic brain injury in a devastating car wreck. “Taking over financial caregiving for my brother was especially challenging when coupled with the physical and emotional trauma of his accident. Even though I’m a financially savvy individual, I had no idea where to get help . . . . Unfortunately, there was no guide, no checklist, or a book of best practices to refer to.”
In Florida, Hector stepped in to help his elderly mother after a niece stole nearly $100,000 from her. Despite his own severe disability, he works every day to make sure her nursing home bills are paid and her accounts are in order. “When you have to take care of someone else’s finances, you feel more responsible for their affairs than you do for your own. It’s overwhelming.”
Managing Someone Else’s Money
We listened to consumers about the need for easy-to-understand tools to help manage a loved one’s money. Two years ago we released the Managing Someone Else’s Money guides for financial caregivers all over the country, and we’ve distributed over 600,000 printed copies so far. The guides are for:
- Agents under a power of attorney
- Court-appointed guardians of property and conservators
- Government-benefit fiduciaries (Social Security representative payees and VA fiduciaries).
The guides help financial caregivers in three ways: they walk them through their duties, they tell them about protecting their loved ones from financial exploitation and scams, and they tell them where to go for help.
But, because people’s powers and duties overseeing another person’s finances vary from state to state, we’ve learned that people need more than a one-size-fits-all guide. That’s why we are releasing specially adapted guides for six states. We’ve already launched guides for Florida and Virginia, and soon will release guides to help financial caregivers in Arizona, Georgia, Illinois and Oregon.
But, what about the other 44 states and the territories?
On October 19th, 2015, we released new tools to help experts in other states adapt the CFPB’s guides. These tips and templates are meant for key state professionals to develop guides for states that don’t have them. (If you are wondering who a key state professional is, check out tip 2, in the tips document.) Our tips and templates will make it easy for experts to create state guides with specific information that financial caregivers need to know. The tips tool explains how to adapt the guides in ten easy steps. The templates highlight the parts of our guides where experts can add information about your state’s laws, practices and resources.
The tips and templates are available for download on http://consumerfinance.gov/managing-someone-elses-money. If you would like free print copies of the tips document, you can order single copies or place bulk orders.
Let’s work together to meet the needs of people like Kristin and Hector in your community. ■