If you want to help someone manage their money, for example if you see a family member or friend having difficulty with financial decisions, you might be able to help them out.
Allowing the person to stay in control
If someone you care about is struggling with their finances because of a medical condition, mobility problem or mental health issue, you probably want to do whatever you can to help.
But you can’t just barge in and take over – you need to remember that the law says you must assume that someone is able to decide for themselves unless there is evidence that they can’t.
No matter how worried you are, you can only ignore or overrule a person’s financial wishes if they lack ‘mental capacity’ – the ability to make their own decisions.
Are they unable to manage their money because of a temporary mental health problem?
If so, could big financial decisions be put off until they recover?
Whatever help you offer, make sure you understand what’s involved and that you’re able and happy to take on the work and responsibilities.
There are various ways of helping someone to go on making their own decisions about money and many ways that you can help.
Help with paperwork
If the person you’re helping finds it hard to understand written information, you can go through any important documents with them.
For example, information about bank accounts, benefits and tax.
Point out the important parts that they need to understand and explain unfamiliar terms and ideas. Some people find filling in forms daunting.
You can help by talking them through the questions on the form and writing in their answers, leaving the person just to add their signature.
Help with meetings
From time to time, the person might need to meet face to face with someone like a benefits adviser, bank, financial adviser or solicitor.
These meetings might be less stressful if you can go along too.
You can also help by:
- Asking questions if you think something has been forgotten.
- Making sure the person’s situation is clearly explained and understood.
- Being on the alert for rogue firms that might take advantage of a vulnerable person.
- Taking notes so that later on you can both review what was said before they make a decision.
- Guiding decisions – making sure the person does not make a decision too quickly before all the issues have been carefully considered.
Helping with day-to-day money
If you want to gently keep an eye on someone’s day-to-day spending, you could:
- Help them to pay their bills on time
- Suggest that you make shopping trips together
- Offer to read through bills and statements when they arrive
If they need more support, you could offer to help manage their bank account through a third-party mandate, which officially names you as someone who can use the account – but you will need their permission.
If they need you to collect benefits on their behalf, they can give you permission to be a joint account holder or ‘permanent agent’ on their Post Office® card account, or to be an appointee so you can receive benefits on their behalf.
If the person needing help is going to be away for a while – for example, to go into hospital – you can be given temporary power of attorney, which says that you’re allowed to manage their affairs for that period of time (but only as long as they still have mental capacity).
You can read more about these ideas from the point of view of the person you’re helping in getting informal help to manage your money.
Giving more intensive help
If the person has good and bad days, it might be useful for you to become their attorney on a permanent basis.
Then you can easily step in as and when help is needed.
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