Learn about good financial practices and record keeping

People who help older adults with financial tasks can avoid confusion and conflict by keeping their finances separate, keeping good records and sharing information with others who are involved.

Keeping the older adult's and their helper's finances separate means:

  • Avoiding joint checking, savings or other joint accounts

  • Keeping the older adult's money and property in their name

  • Avoiding using cash to cover the older adult's expenses

  • Paying the older adult's expenses from their accounts

  • Not depositing the older adult's money into anyone else's account

Keeping well-organized financial records means:

  • Keeping detailed notes, such as check numbers, dates and reasons, for funds received from or spent for the older adult

  • Keeping receipts and notes on all expenses, even small ones

  • Paying expenses by check, debit card or credit card, so there's a record

  • Making sure all items or services included in the transaction are for the older adult

  • Not using the older adult's ATM card or writing checks to "cash"

  • Not signing checks or other documents with the older adult's name

Fiduciaries or attorneys-in-fact under a power of attorney can sign checks or documents as the older adult's agent. For example, the signature could be "Anne Bruno, fiduciary for Jane Bruno" or "Jane Bruno, by Anne Bruno under POA."

Keeping fuller records of an older adult's resources can help when making financial plans, filing claims or seeking assistance. These records might include:

  • Statements for credit cards and checking, savings and investment accounts

  • Bills for utilities, vehicle or other loans, long-term care or regular payments

  • Income-related records, like tax returns and Social Security statements

  • Pictures of valuables, along with information such as serial numbers, estimates of value and records of purchase or appraisal

  • Housing documents, such as leases, mortgages or deeds

  • Policies for home, vehicle, life, health or other types of care insurance

  • Legal documents such as wills, trusts and powers of attorney

Other financial best practices include:

  • Having income directly deposited into and expenses automatically deducted from the older adult's accounts

  • Strong financial and legal information in a secure place like a locked cabinet or encrypted computer file

  • Discussing important decisions with a financial advisor or other professional, especially for fiduciaries who are making investment or other financial decisions for older adults