Managing your bank and building society accounts
There are several ways that you can help yourself or a trusted family member to manage your bank and building society accounts.
- Third-party mandates: if you want someone else to deal with your bank on your behalf, you need to contact your bank to ask for a ‘third-party mandate’ form. After you have signed and returned this form, the appointed ‘third party’ will be allowed to make calls, query statements and operate the account(s) on your behalf.
- Joint account: another option might be to set up a new joint account for bills, so that you and your loved one have joint access to manage the account online or deal with problems. However, bear in mind that there would be tax and other implications to opening a joint account. Each account holder would be liable to pay any Income Tax and Inheritance Tax as well as being jointly liable for any debts.
- Cancel unused cards: consider cancelling unused credit cards so that there is less chance of using them inadvertently or losing them. Also, check the credit limit on their cards – if it’s very high, you might want to discuss decreasing it so there is less chance of fraud if the card is lost or stolen, or your loved one falls victim to a scam.
Note that if someone else tries to run your account by using your Pin number or online banking, this is technically in breach of the account’s terms and conditions.
Which? members can check current Which? Recommended Providers to see which banks and building societies are offering the best rates.
You might also want to consider maximising savings in case of more expensive care needs in future. The Which? Money Compare savings comparison tables can help make the most of savings. Rather than being guided purely by interest rates, check whether the type of account offers instant access (or a reasonable notice period) to savings, or whether the money is locked in and cannot be accessed for several years, as care bills may need to change at short notice.
If you have investments, we recommend you talk to a qualified independent financial adviser (IFA), preferably a specialist accredited later life adviser, such as a fully listed member of the Society of Later Life Advisers (SOLLA).
Society of Later Life Advisers (SOLLA)
By choosing an accredited member of the Society, you can be assured of someone with the expertise to best understand your needs to provide advice that is right for you and your family.
For more guidance on finding an IFA, see how to find a financial adviser on Which? Money. You might find it helpful to have a family member at this discussion.
Paying household bills, such as electricity, gas, telephone, water and Council Tax, can be an additional worry. If you're paying bills at the post office or by cheque, this can be quite time-consuming and there is the chance that some bills may inadvertently not get paid, so you might want to consider organising setting up direct debits and nominating a third party.
- Setting up direct debits: setting up direct debits for regular bills, such as gas and electricity, could help to simplify things. You will have to contact your service providers to request a direct debt mandate and sign the forms, but it will make life easier once things are set up. Some organisations offer discounts if you pay by direct debit, so you might save money too. Smaller monthly direct debits can also help you to budget, if you're on a limited income.
- Nominating a third party: under normal circumstances, utility companies will only speak to the named account holder, but it’s usually possible to nominate a third party to deal with providers. You will need to set this up by contacting the service provider and explaining the situation. The company should be able to advise on what to do next. This will then allow your named third party to discuss your account, without you needing to be present.
I'd never had to deal with tax paperwork and found it quite daunting helping my mother, but actually it's fine. The local Tax Office are incredibly helpful and the helplines are really good.
If you're managing someone else's accounts
If your loved one wants you to help more with their financial affairs or has a deteriorating illness that could affect their mental health, it’s a good idea to carry out a ‘mini audit’ together.
Make a list of all the organisations they deal with, plus any relevant account/customer numbers and ask them about their wishes. For example:
- Who do they bank with?
- Where do they keep any savings?
- What are their future plans for any savings/investments?
- Who is their electricity provider?
- Could they switch to a better deal? You can compare energy prices at Which? Switch and find out which energy providers are rated most highly by you. Which? also offers advice on home phones and broadband providers.
Establish where they keep any relevant paperwork, so that you can find it later if you need to.
It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on the amount of money in their current account, as they could be vulnerable if they lose their debit card when out shopping or fall victim to a scam. Consider transferring large sums to a different account.
Power of Attorney
It would be as well to discuss getting a formal Power of Attorney in place. Once this legal document has been signed, your loved one and you can forget about it until such time that it’s required.
Your loved one might need help with their financial affairs if they have a disability or an illness such as dementia.
What is a Power of Attorney and why should you set one up? We also explain about Lasting Power of Attorney.
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