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Planning the transfer of responsibility

Congratulations for getting this far! You’ve taken the first steps to protect your money. Now let’s talk about how you might put your carefully-designed plan into action.

How will you know when to transfer your money responsibilities to your advocate?

Everyone ages differently, so for you and your advocate, pay attention to the signs. Start by discussing these signs with your family and your advocate and planning out what will happen when it’s time to get your advocate involved.

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Blazing Red Emergency Signals

These signs suggest that your advocate should get involved right away.

  • You often make serious mistakes, like forgetting to take medications, failing to file tax returns, or paying the bills (e.g. property taxes or insurance premiums).
  • You get lost when walking or driving to familiar places.
  • You’ve made some unwise choices and lost a significant amount of money and are at risk of losing more.
  • You’ve been diagnosed with a serious disease or physical condition that’s distracting and disruptive.
  • You’ve been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Your significant other who managed your finances passed away or is diagnosed with dementia and you’re not comfortable with fully taking on that role.
  • New “friends” appear and have access to your home, computer, or money.
  • Charges begin to appear on your credit card for unusual purchases or for new charitable causes, charges that you don’t remember.
  • Your doctor, lawyer, accountant, or financial advisor contacts you or your family to express concern.
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Yellow Caution Light Signals

Sometimes the signs are more subtle, but taken together, might indicate that you need some help.

  • You need caregivers to help you with things like preparing meals, getting dressed, and taking medications.
  • You drive less because you don’t feel safe.
  • You spend more time alone because it gets harder for you to visit with others or keep up with conversations.
  • You start neglecting tasks like looking at your account balances, home maintenance, housekeeping, and food shopping and preparation—chores that you previously did just fine.
  • You forget to pay a few bills on time, or you pay the same bill twice.
  • Your personal habits change. For example, you don’t return phone calls or emails when you used to respond right away, or you don’t participate in your hobbies anymore.
  • You have trouble doing business over the phone and familiar tasks on the computer have become difficult.

Work with your advocate to develop your own “early warning system” and discuss it with your doctor and trusted family members or friends. They can alert you if they notice signs and can help get your financial advocate on board.

Pave the way for success

If you or someone close to you starts noticing the signs, it’s the time to put your plan into action! Based on the signs, a full transition might be needed. But if you can still handle most of your money matters, we recommend you transfer responsibility to your advocate gradually based on the help you need.

Follow these tips while you’re still able to manage your money fairly independently. They will set you on course for a stress-free transition:

  • Consider this your advocate’s “financial orientation.” Here is what you should plan on covering:

    • Sources of income and how much you typically spend each month.
    • When and how you pay your bills (online vs. mail a check).
    • The accounts you typically use to make payments-- Credit card? Debit card? Cash?
    • Debt and plans for paying it down.
    • Amount of money you have saved up and where it’s invested.
    • Where you store official documents, like your will, POA, property titles, and others.
    • If you have investments, your investment drawdown strategy.
    • Medical coverage and other insurance policies.
    • Where your online accounts, ATM, and other passwords are securely stored.
    • If you own your home or other property, your mortgage payments and maintenance needs.
    • Longer term needs and choices, like where you want to live if you need care down the road.
  • Practice makes perfect. Ask your advocate to participate in a routine money management task or two. Log on to your financial accounts together so that they become familiar with your monthly statements and your financial institutions’ websites, pay a bill together, or make a sample budget with the monthly income you get. This will give you a chance to clarify points of confusion and listen to how they would make decisions for you.
  • Bring your advocate to a financial planning or tax prep meeting to show them how you think through big decisions. If the financial firm has a “trusted contact” form that allows them to reach out to your advocate if concerns come up, fill it out. And make sure they have copies of your power of attorney or trust on file.
  • Without this document, your financial companies won’t allow your advocate to handle your money matters.

There’s no “right” way to transfer responsibility to your financial advocate. Each person’s circumstances are unique, which is why including your financial advocate in decisions early on will give them a long runway to learn how you take care of your money. You can feel safe and sound knowing your money is in good hands. That’s the key to a stress-free transition for both of you.

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