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Your Role
Six tips for family caregivers

By William F. Whelan, Senior Vice President, Capital Bank of New Jersey

Reprinted Courtesy of The Grapevine.

According to the Caregiver Action Network, more than 65 million Americans care for a loved one living with a disability, disease or experiencing reduced financial capability as a result of aging. According to AARP, more than 19 million people assist older individuals with their personal finances. Financial caregivers, such as those with a power of attorney, trustee or a federal benefits fiduciary, play an important role in ensuring that all finances—from routine to complex—are managed wisely, helping their loved ones maintain the best quality of life possible. In recognition of National Family Caregiver Month, Capital Bank of New Jersey is helping financial caregivers better understand their role.

“Millions of Americans are designated to provide financial care to their loved ones,” said Capital Bank of New Jersey President and CEO David Hanrahan. “As a financial caregiver, it is extremely important that you stay up to date on any changes in laws and regulations that may impact your role as a fiduciary and your ability to take care of your senior.” Capital Bank of New Jersey offers the following tips to help individuals understand their role as financial caregivers:

1. Learn the rights and restrictions that apply to your role. Financial caregivers, such as those with power of attorney, trustees, and federal benefits fiduciaries, are fiduciaries with a duty to act and make decisions on a loved one’s behalf. Learn the legal responsibilities of your assigned authority to better execute your role.

2. Manage money and other assets wisely. Financial caregivers may be in charge of daily, unexpected and future expense their loved one may incur. Especially if the beneficiary has a fixed income or limited finances, it is extremely important that caregivers minimize unnecessary costs and budget accordingly to ensure that all money is properly allocated.

3. Recognize danger signs. Seniors have become major targets for financial abuse and fraud. Make sure to stay alert to signs of scams or identity theft that may put your loved one’s assets in peril.

4. Keep careful records. When acting as a financial agent, proper documentation is not only encouraged but required. Keep well-organized financial records, including up-to-date lists of assets and debts and a streamline of all financial transactions.

5. Stay informed. Monitor changes in financial status of the beneficiary and take appropriate action. Be sure to stay up to date on changes in the laws affecting seniors.

6. Seek professional advice. Consult a banker or other professional advisors when you’re not sure what to do.

Also, Capital Bank of New Jersey provides an explanation of the roles and responsibilities of three types of financial caregivers, as follows:

Understanding your role as a power of attorney. POA is designated by your loved one and gives you the authority to act and make decisions on their behalf, including managing and having access to their bank and other financial accounts. Authority continues if the loved one becomes incapacitated and ends when power is revoked or loved one dies.

Understanding your role as a trustee. Authority is given once you are named as trustee or co-trustee of a revocable living trust. As a trustee, your authority applies only to the property noted in the trust, authorizing you to protect, manage and distribute the trust’s assets as directed in the trust document. Authority continues after death of the trust creator or grantor.

Understanding your role as a federal benefits fiduciary. A federal benefits fiduciary is appointed to accept and delegate federal government benefit payments, such as Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits, in the beneficiary’s best interest. Funds for the beneficiary are received through an account set up solely for this purpose. As a representative payee for Social Security benefits or a VA fiduciary for VA benefits, you are required to keep detailed records of all transactions related to the beneficiary and file annual reports detailing how benefits were used. Capital Bank of New Jersey visits local senior centers and provides workshops about preventing identity theft, avoiding scams, and choosing a financial caregiver. Our branch managers can assist you in scheduling a seminar at your location.

The Caregiver Action Network (the National Family Caregivers Association) began promoting national recognition of family caregivers in 1994. President Clinton signed the first NFC Month Presidential Proclamation in 1997 and every president since has followed suit by issuing an annual proclamation recognizing and honoring family caregivers each November. To learn more: caregiveraction.org. For additional resources: aba.com/seniors.