Being the primary caregiver for an ill or disabled loved one isn’t easy. Besides caring for their physical needs there’s also housecleaning, laundry, cooking, and buying groceries. While it isn’t always necessary, if things get to the point where you have to take over their finances, it can become overwhelming. Where do you start? What all should you consider? How can you oversee their financial life, yet still respect their wishes? It’s a lot to think about, and that’s why I’ve put together these eight tips to help you navigate your way with a little less stress. Every tip may not apply to your specific situation, so take only what you need.

Have a conversation

If your loved one suffers from some form of advanced dementia, or other illness that affects their cognitive abilities, this tip may not apply to your situation. Otherwise, it’s vital that you sit down with your loved one and discuss whether or not they need your assistance in handling their finances. No one wants to lose their autonomy, and handing over part of one’s life to another can be frightening, so be sure to approach the topic with empathy and respect for their wishes.

Start with the basics

There are a few things to consider right from the start. Do you need to set up a power of attorney (a legal document giving you the authority to make decisions on someone else’s behalf regarding property, finances, and medical care) or will simply adding your name to their bank account (thus creating a joint account) work best for you? Depending on the circumstances, you may also want to look into creating a living will, which is an advance directive on medical wishes. Answering these questions will help guide you to the path that is the best fit for you and your loved one.

You’ll also want to discuss these options with any other family members who may be involved, including your loved one if possible, to assure everyone is in agreement.

Financial records

Find out where your loved one keeps all of their financial records. Find out if they keep their money in more than one bank, under their mattress, or in a hidden safe—whatever the case may be, you need to know so you can handle things in the best way possible. Remember to inquire about account numbers as well as any investments they may have, brokerages with whom they do business, and all tax records.


How much is their annual or monthly income, and where is it coming from? Do they receive a monthly retirement check? Do they receive social security, alimony, dividends from investments, VA or disability payments? Are these deposits made into one or multiple accounts?


It’s important when managing another person’s finances to be aware of all insurance polices, their premiums and benefits. Major medical or medicare, auto, home, and any supplemental insurance policies. Find out which policies they own, where the records are kept, and locate their insurance cards. Additionally, you’ll want to be aware of any short and long-term care coverage they may have. If you have doubts as to whether or not they have sufficient coverage, you may want to consult with a local insurance agent.

Monthly expenses

Gather information about mortgage/rent, car payment, credit cards, utility bills, and other expenses. Find out how these bills are paid. Are any set up as auto pay, or are they paid in person, online banking, or paper check?


Find out if your loved one has a financial planner or an attorney. If so, who are they and how do you contact them? Have they done any estate planning, created a trust or will? Where are those records kept?

Planning ahead

If you’re in the early stages of providing full-time care for your loved one, the more time you spend planning for the future the better. While you can’t plan for every eventuality, the more organized you can become the less likely you’ll be in the dark later if an unexpected accident or illness occurs. Keep all important papers in one place. If possible, your loved one can plan ahead by signing a Durable Power of Attorney naming you as the person who can act on their behalf should the need arise.

The best thing you can do for your loved one is to discuss these things with them, and others in your family, before a need arises. Doing so will provide much needed peace of mind during a crisis that will enable you to focus on providing the care that’s needed, rather than worrying over things like insurance, property and money.