Responsibility 2: Help Tom make good decisions

As Tom’s supporter, you might be authorized to help him make everyday financial decisions. That may involve decisions about paying bills, managing bank accounts, or paying for things Tom needs. You might also help him make bigger decisions regarding investments or major purchases.

If you are authorized to help with financial decisions, you should help make sure that Tom makes informed, thoughtful decisions. Use good judgment and common sense. You should help Tom be even more careful with his money than you might be with your own!

  • Find out what Tom owns and owes. If you are authorized to help Tom make financial decisions, you should be able to obtain Tom’s financial information by showing the signed agreement to Tom’s bank or other institution that holds the information. Find out what accounts Tom holds and how much money is in them. Find out what other property Tom owns and how much it is worth. And find out who Tom owes money to and when and how he is expected to pay it back.
  • Help Tom make a financial plan. Help Tom make a budget as if you were making one for your own household. List how much Tom expects to pay for a nursing home, assisted living or home care, rent, food, medical care, and home maintenance or repair. Be sure to include a monthly amount for Tom to use as he pleases. Think about any special expenses that may arise, such as dental work or any medical care or equipment that Medicare, Medicaid, or health insurance will not cover. Help Tom stick to his budget.
  • Share all important information with Tom. To make good decisions, Tom will need all available information. Make sure that Tom is aware of anything that could influence his decision.
  • Help Tom understand his options. In making a decision, Tom may not immediately understand all the options available to him. Help him explore any possibilities and think through the consequences of each particular option.
  • Help Tom invest carefully. If Tom wants your help in making investments, talk to a financial professional. The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) provides tips on choosing a financial professional in this Investor Bulletin. Discuss Tom’s choices and goals for investing based on his needs and values.
  • Help Tom pay all taxes and bills on time. Make sure bills are sent to you. Review bills and bank statements promptly.
  • Help Tom buy insurance if necessary and cancel any insurance policies that he does not need.
  • Help Tom collect any rent or debts owed to him. Find out if anyone owes Tom money, and help him figure out how to collect it.
  • Help Tom keep true and complete records of his money and property. If Tom wishes, be ready to share your records with Tom’s family—unless you think they will misuse the information to harm Tom. You might encourage Tom to:
    • Keep a detailed list of everything that he receives or spends. Records should include the amount of checks written or deposited, dates, reasons, names of people or companies involved, and other important information.
    • Keep receipts and notes, even for small expenses. For example, Tom might write “$50, groceries, ABC Grocery Store, May 2” in his records soon after he spends the money.
    • Avoid paying in cash when possible. It is harder to keep good records when paying expenses with cash. Also, encourage him to try not to use an ATM card to withdraw cash or write checks to “Cash.” If he needs to use cash, encourage him to keep receipts or notes.
  • There’s no place like home. If the supported decision-making agreement allows you to help with decisions regarding shelter, help Tom determine if living in his home is safe and if he can manage in the house. If needed, help him put in guard rails, grab bars, smoke detectors, extra lighting, and other things to help him stay at home. Tax credits or deductions might be available if Tom makes the home easier to live in, but you should encourage him to talk to an accountant or an attorney before claiming a credit or taking a deduction. If others are authorized to act on Tom’s behalf—for example, an agent under a power of attorney or trustee under a revocable trust—work with them to make these decisions as necessary. If it is not safe for Tom to live at home even with changes—or if Tom wants to move—consider other places that meet Tom’s needs. Try to keep him connected to people and things that are important to him. Options might include living with someone else or living in a retirement community, a senior apartment, a group home, assisted living, or a nursing home.

Avoid possible conflicts of interest.

Sometimes people have good intentions, but do things they shouldn’t. Because you now have special fiduciary duties, you must avoid any conflicts of interest. Here are a few examples of possible conflicts of interest:

Whose car is it?
You helped Tom decide to buy a car with his money. You use the car to drive him to appointments, but most of the time you drive it just for your own needs. This may be a conflict of interest.

Should you do business with family?
Tom needs repair work in his apartment. You hire your son and pay him from Tom’s money. This may be a conflict of interest, even though the work was needed. It appears that you have put your personal interest to benefit your son in conflict with Tom’s interests.