1. Designate someone you trust as your financial authority.
Even if you are still able to make financial decisions, choose the right person to deal with if you become incapacitated. Or people: if you invest two people with this responsibility, they can share the work and hold each other accountable.
“We don’t like to talk about finances. It’s private. But we need to change that dynamic,” said Julie Schoen, assistant director of the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine.
Skip the standard power of attorney form and adapt the role to your needs, preferably with the help of a lawyer. (The federal government’s eldercare locator can help you find free or inexpensive legal aid.) You might want your agents to handle all of your financial affairs, or you might simply want them to file taxes or manage property, for example. Speak it out.
2. Designate a trusted contact for accounts and investments.
A trusted contact is someone you authorize a bank or financial institution to report to questionable activity on your account or when they cannot reach you. The company can share some account information with your trusted contact, but he or she won’t be able to conduct transactions.
A similar option is to give someone you trust read-only access to your account. View-only users can monitor your transactions but cannot make trades or access funds. This is a safer option than setting up a joint account where the other person can make withdrawals and your money will automatically be theirs when you die.
“Never add anyone to your bank account or title of property,” advises Joanne Savage, attorney at AARP’s Legal Counsel for the Elderly, which provides free legal advice to older adults in Washington, DC
Contact your bank or brokerage company, or visit their website, for information on adding a trusted contract or view-only user to your account. The US Securities and Exchange Commission requires brokerage firms to require clients to provide a trusted contact when opening or upgrading an account.
3. Sign up for a service that will track your bank accounts, investments, and credit cards.
Tech tools like EverSafe and LifeLock can detect suspicious activity – like missing deposits, unusual withdrawals, or abrupt changes in spending behavior – and notify you and a trusted attorney.
Not only do these services provide frontline protection in fraud, fraud, and identity theft detection – they can also provide assistance in recovering from losses. For example, if you do fall victim to fraud, they can guide you through the steps to report and mitigate your losses. EverSafe will reimburse attorney fees in the event of identity theft.