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If you’re worried a family member’s money is being mis-managed

When someone else is managing you’re a family member’s money , concerns can crop up. Often problems can be easily sorted out. But if you think something’s wrong, it’s best to check whether your concerns are valid and get expert advice on what to do.

Check your concerns are valid

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Money mismanagement is a very real problem and you’re right to take your concerns seriously.

On the other hand, a lot of worries are based on simple misunderstandings. By approaching things calmly, you might be able to put your mind at rest without problems escalating.

There might be a very good reason for an unexplained payment. So your first step is to ask for an explanation of the missing money you’re worried about.

The conversation will be calmer if you don’t phrase it as an accusation. Instead, ask something along the lines of “I was just wondering what this was for…”

That might be all you need to do to sort out the problem. But if you’re not comfortable with the answer you get, don’t feel guilty about taking things further.

Our guide to having difficult conversations about money can help you prepare.

Get expert advice

If you’re still worried after you’ve spoken to the fperson who’s looking after the money, it’s a very good idea to get some expert advice. You can:

  • Get free, confidential, independent advice from your local Citizen's Advice.
  • Ask a solicitor – if you’ve already been using one to make arrangements, they’ll be familiar with the situation and might be able to offer informal advice. You might have to pay for this, so always ask in advance and check you’re happy with the rates.
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Take action if necessary

If you think someone is in immediate danger (either their money is being stolen or they’re at risk of physical harm), phone the police straight away.

You might suspect that someone is being coerced into allowing their money or assets to be used in a way that you wouldn’t expect. This might be a form of economic abuse, often referred to as coercive control.

You can find out more about economic abuse and organisations that can help on the Surviving economic abuse website

If you disagree with the choices the person is makingmoney with a family member’s money,  what you do depends on the situation.

If it’s  about how money is being used, it’s often best to have a clear-headed conversation. A disagreement might be something like whether the money should be spent on home care or day care. If you can’t sort it out between yourselves, try getting professional advice – from doctors or social workers, for example.

Resolving problems with powers of attorney and trusts

It can be worrying to think that a person responsible for someone else’s money might be doing something wrong or might not be competent. Any problems need resolving especially if someone has been given formal powers, such as an attorney or a trustee. 

What are attorneys and trustees?

Attorneys and trustees look after money and financial affairs for other people

Attorneys can look after someone’s money when they are appointed under a power of attorney, which gives them the right to make financial or medical decisions for someone else.

Sometimes, people may have been given similar powers by a court, and if they’ve been appointed by a court, they will be called:

  • Deputies (England), which is the term we will use in this guide
  • Guardians or interveners (Scotland)
  • Controllers (Northern Ireland).

Trustees are appointed to manage a trust – a sum of money or assets held to benefit someone else.

This might be money that someone has left in their will to pay for a child’s education, or perhaps money for a person who is disabled and unable to manage it themself.

Attorneys, deputies and trustees have to act in the best interests of:

  • the person who made the power of attorney
  • The people who are meant to benefit from the trust.

When to worry about attorneys and trustees

Take action if you think they’re:

  • misusing money
  • committing a crime
  • not acting in the person’s best interest
  • making bad decisions that affect the person.

What you should do depends on whether they’re an attorney, a deputy or a trustee.

How to complain about an attorney or deputy

If you’re concerned about a trustee

If you’re not happy with how a trustee is behaving, you might be able to get them removed.

Not many people can remove a trustee.

If it’s your trust (that is, you had it set up using your assets – your money and investments) you might have the power to do it.

Another trustee might be able to do it as well – how this works depends on the rules of the trust.

If tiy want to remove a trustee, it’s worth getting professional advice before you do anything. 

If you’re not closely involved, speak to the person who put the assets into trust (if you can), or try to discuss matters with other trustees if you know who they are. The person you want to help may be able to tell you. 

If a trustee has to be removed

If you set up the trust, check the trust documents to see if the rules allow you to remove trustees.

If you’re a joint-trustee or a beneficiary of the trust, sometimes you can remove a trustee using other legal provision which will not usually be in the trust documents themselves. Talk to a solicitor about how to do this.

If the trust documents or other legal provision does allow you to remove trustees, you’ll need the right paperwork. You can get it from the solicitor or financial firm that manages the trust.

Usually, all it takes is signing an extra form. It might need to be signed by the trustee that you want to remove, but you might be able to remove them without their signature.

Remember, most trusts need at least two trustees – so if removing one trustee leaves you short, you’ll need to find another one.

Whatever your circumstances, it’s best to talk to a solicitor or the financial organisation that’s managing the trust.

Taking someone to court to reclaim money owed

If a lot of money has been used in a way that you don’t agree with, you might have to consider taking the person to court. This is a big step, so it’s worth bearing in mind that this might have a negative impact on your relationship with that person, be stressful for both sides and has no guarantees of success for anyone.

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Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free, impartial help for all your money and pension choices. Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

Continue to website
Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free, impartial help for all your money and pension choices. Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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