My husband, on occasion, can have a bit of salt in his exclamations about life’s many frustrations. That doesn’t bother me overmuch. It’s when he says, “Oh, darn” that I get worried. Usually something drastic has happened. That exclamation was recently uttered, and it was about our elder and her finances.
Somehow, and we didn’t find out how until today, she got checks for the trustee account. That account has only one payee, and it is not her. Once she got the checks, she went to town writing them. Here is what we did and how the story turned out.
Make sure you have the right type of account: It needs to be a representative payee account as part of a trust. The elder in question must be listed on the check as the beneficiary. It took us several months and more than one account to get it right…Social Security and the banking industry have many requirements and they don’t always communicate with each other.
Make sure your elder has no privileges on the account. The elder should not be able to get any information or sign checks. If the account is set up properly, the bank will make special notations on the account stating that the elder has no visibility to the account or any ability to take out money or write checks.
Prevent Problems Now: Our elder got her hands on the account number, filled out a check request and gave it to the teller. The checks were then mailed to her home. The teller isn’t required to pull up account information. It’s not the teller’s job. The bank manager explained this to us today. Instead, do the following, which we have learned the hard way:
- 1) Have the mailing address associated with the account be that of the financial trustee. If checks are ordered, they won’t go to the elder.
- 2) Make sure that there are no credit cards attached to the account. Due to the memory problems, our elder doesn’t believe that she’s got a limit to her finances. If she gets her hands on checks, she’ll write them. If there is a credit card attached, the overdraft fee and the amount spent goes on the card and she won’t know.
- 3) Make sure the bank knows that the elder in question is considered incompetent. People come and go at banks. Having the incompetency flag on the account will prevent many other problems.
- 4) Try to keep the account number from the elder in question. This is hard to do, because it is also important to make sure that the elder sees that you aren’t spending her money on wild parties or expensive vacations.
This was an expensive lesson to learn, and one I don’t want to repeat. As I’ve written in other articles, our elder is not stupid. She just can’t remember things, nor that she has a memory problem. We’ll never know what she’s going to do next. She’s independent and she wants her car keys and checkbook back, thank you very much. Unfortunately, we can’t give them to her.