The primary caregiver for aging loved ones frequently must take...

The primary caregiver for aging loved ones frequently must take on their financial affairs, too. Credit: Getty Images / Ryan J. Lane

When you become the primary caregiver for an aging loved one, you frequently need to take on their finances, too.

In a recent Merrill Lynch/Age Wave study of more than 2,000 caregivers, 92 percent are “financial coordinators,” overseeing the money of their care recipient, yet they aren’t even on top of their own finances. For example, 52 percent didn’t know how much they had spent on caregiving-related expenses to date, and 45 percent couldn’t even tally up the costs for such care in the past month.

What’s the best advice about managing your loved one’s money?

  • Follow the rules.

Be sure you have a durable financial power of attorney properly signed and dated. Without this document, it’s difficult to handle someone else’s financial affairs, says James Barnash, a certified financial planner at SGL Financial in Buffalo Grove, Illinois.

Understand there’s no room for error. “If you’re not going to do it by the book, then I don’t advise that you do it at all. Keep detailed records and avoid intermingling of assets and accounts,” says Mary P. O’Reilly, a trusts and estates attorney at Meltzer, Lippe in Mineola.

  • Get up to speed.

If you’re coming in blind, your loved one’s advisers — accountant, money manager, attorney — are good resources. Contact them, ask questions, says O’Reilly. Check the mail regularly. Review past tax returns.

  • Take care of yourself.

Don’t neglect your own finances. With new expenses, create a budget and track spending.

“Caring for a loved one can easily become your only focus, but caring for yourself and your future is just as important,” says Lauren Klein, president of Klein Financial Advisors in Newport Beach, California.

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