Banking for the Protected Person
The bank, savings and loan, or credit union will help you set up or modify an account. Financial institutions charge different fees for the different services available with different accounts. Select an option that makes sense, given the amount of money and the types of transactions that you anticipate.
Do not use your own personal or business cash, checks, credit cards or debit cards to pay the protected person's expenses and expect to be reimbursed with the protected person's money. This is a form of "comingling" or mixing your money and property with that of the protected person. It is prohibited and can get you into serious trouble.
Establish checking and savings accounts that are separate from your personal and business accounts, and separate from everyone else's personal and business accounts. Do not use an account jointly owned by the protected person and another person. If the protected person has a joint account, you may need to separate the protected person's money from the money of the other person and start a solely owned account.
If the protected person already has solely owned savings and checking accounts, list yourself as an authorized signer in the accounts, not in your personal capacity, but rather in your capacity as guardian or conservator. Sign checks, both incoming and outgoing, with your name, but include the designation "guardian" or "conservator." Use the protected person's Social Security number, not yours, on the protected person's accounts that require a Social Security number.
Process all of the protected person's financial transactions through the protected person's accounts. This includes payments to the protected person, such as Social Security payments, pension payments and other income. It includes money from the sale of property. And it includes money paid by you on behalf of the protected person, such as bills and purchases. Even small financial transactions should be processed through the protected person's accounts.
Some organizations that make payments to the protected person, like the Social Security Administration, may require that the payment be deposited directly into the protected person's account. If the protected person receives payments from an organization that offers direct deposit, using that option is a good idea. The money is deposited electronically without the risk of a check being delayed, lost or stolen. The money is available immediately on the day of deposit. And the bank automatically has a record of the transaction.
The Social Security Administration also offers a debit card called "Direct Express" that the representative payee can use to access the protected person's benefits without a bank account. With this option, the SSA deposits the payment into the debit card account. For more information about direct deposit and use of an SSA debit card, see the Social Security Administration webpage "Get Your Payments Electronically."
Banks usually offer automatic bill pay in which money that the protected person owes for rent, utilities, credit card debt and other services is paid electronically. Again, using this option is a good idea. The money is transferred electronically without the risk of a check being delayed, lost or stolen. And the bank automatically has a record of the transaction.
Most banks also offer online banking in which you can access the protected person's account using a web browser. This can be handy for checking account balances, transferring money from one of the protected person's accounts to another, and other bank services. All of the prohibitions still apply to online banking: do not mix money from the protected person's accounts with money from your accounts; and do not use the protected person's money for anything other than the protected person's benefit.
You may use a debit or credit card that comes with the account if the payment is for the protected person's benefit. You should make payments by check, credit card or debit card directly to the person you are paying so there is a bank record of the transaction. Unless it is absolutely necessary, do not make checks for cash or make cash withdrawals, except to give a cash allowance as spending money to the protected person. A lot of cash withdrawals will not look good to the court or to others who may question your management of the estate. For your own protection, keep cash withdrawals to a minimum and keep good records of what the money was used for.
If you receive a check for deposit in the protected person's account, record in a check register or financial journal:
- date of the deposit;
- source of the income;
- amount of the income; and
- if you are depositing income from more than one source, the source and amount for each source.
If you pay one of the protected person's expenses by check, record in a check register or financial journal:
- date of the payment and check number;
- amount of the payment;
- to whom the payment was made; and
- what the payment was for.