How to help older folks manage their money


Q. I recently started helping my elderly father manage his money. He’s still able to sign paperwork, etc. but I’m concerned that someday he won’t be. I use online access for all of his accounts so I never have to identify myself as not being him – the banks have no idea I’m the one making transactions. Is this okay, or do I need to get documents for this?
— Trying to help

A. We’re glad you’re thinking about what’s next and how you can continue to help your father.

It’s time to consider a durable power of attorney.

This is a written document by which an individual (the principal) grants the authority to one or more other individuals (the agent or attorney-in-fact) to perform specified acts (generally dealing with the principal’s property or finances as opposed to health care) on behalf of the principal whether the principal is presently capable to act on his own or is under a disability, said Catherine Romania, an estate planning attorney with Witman Stadtmauer in Florham Park.

“In order for the financial institution to recognize that durable power of attorney for your use to access online accounts, the document must specifically refer to the authority over digital assets and/or online financial accounts,” Romania said.

Financial institutions with online access to accounts may also have terms of service agreements or online tools that allow account holders to designate third-party users or authorized representatives to act in the event of disability or death, she said.

“While your father is still able to manage his money, he would be able to designate you to act for him either on a properly prepared and executed durable power of attorney or directly on the financial institution website,” Romania said.

Email your questions to moc.p1594172130leHye1594172130noMJN1594172130@ksA1594172130.