With cases of financial exploitation of the elderly on the rise, advisors who work with older clients are looking for ways to head off the abuse before it happens. Enter the “Emergency Contact Authorization Form,” a document in which clients can list a trusted person who should be contacted if an advisor suspects a client is starting to lose their mental capacity or, worse yet, being financially abused or scammed.
How Does an Emergency Contact Authorization Form Work?
The Emergency Contact Authorization Form is a document which allows you to identify someone your financial advisor can contact if your advisor becomes concerned about your ability to continue to manage your finances or believes you are being taken advantage of financially by a relative, friend, caregiver, or even a complete stranger.
The Emergency Contact Authorization Form does not take the place of your “Durable Power of Attorney,” which is a legal document in which you give a person you trust the authority to make financial decisions and carry out financial transactions on your behalf. Instead, the form allows you to designate an individual your advisor can contact to discuss concerns they have about your slipping mental capacity, unusual activity in your accounts, requests for transfers of large sums of money to an unknown person or a foreign bank account, and the like. This designated individual could be the same person as the agent named in your Durable Power of Attorney or some other trusted person in your life, or you could designate another person to provide some checks and balances. The idea is that once your advisor makes your emergency contact aware of the issues, your contact can reach out to you to determine if the advisor’s concerns are legitimate.
What Should You Do?
Since your financial advisor is in a unique position to know your financial history (for instance, you take a trip to Europe every June, you have been helping your grandkids with their college tuition, you like to make your charitable donations in October to avoid the year-end rush), your advisor is also in a unique position to spot unusual activity and requests. Thus, when your advisor asks you fill out an “Emergency Contact Authorization Form,” carefully consider who you should name, discuss your choice with your advisor, complete the form, let the person you’ve chosen know that they have been designated, and give that person your advisor’s contact information.
Nonetheless, keep in mind that while an Emergency Contact Authorization Form is a good start, it will only work at the institution where it is on record. To insure that all of your financial accounts will continue to be managed and your bills will get paid if you become mentally incapacitated, you will need to sign a Durable Power of Attorney.
Please contact our office if you have any questions about Emergency Contact Authorization Forms, Durable Powers of Attorney, or if you suspect a family member or friend is being financially exploited or abused.