My father is withdrawing money from his accounts but can't remember where he's spending the money. What can I do?

1 answer | Last updated: Feb 28, 2011
Meiho asked...

My father is withdrawing money from his accounts and then cannot account for where he spends it. When I ask him, he says, "I don't remember," or "I can't tell you." I don't know if he "can't" or "won't." I live 2,500 miles away and am his only living relative. We have joint accounts and I monitor them online daily, but I can't stop him from writing checks to himself. Should I have his accounts only in my name and give him an "allowance" for daily expenses, in addition to setting up automatic billpay for ongoing monthly bills? Any other suggestions?

Expert Answers

Barbara Steinberg is the CEO and founder of BLS Eldercare Financial Solutions, which specializes in helping families pay for long-term care for their loved ones. A registered financial gerontologist, she speaks regularly on the topic of paying for long-term care and is a financial expert for

It sounds like you need to take steps to protect your father's assets, not only from himself, but from potential scammers.

Taking his name off of his accounts will accomplish this. If you can talk him into putting the bulk of his money into an account under your name, you can leave him with his own account for his allowance.The disadvantage of this for him is that his assets would then be available to satisfy any debts that you may incur as a result of a lawsuit, divorce, credit problems, etc. Plus, If you have children who are in college or will be going soon, the additional assets can impact the availability of financial aid. And the earnings in the accounts will impact your tax situation.

One vehicle for avoiding these consequences is to set up an irrevocable trust to hold the assets. You can be trustee, which gives you authority to manage the assets in the trust. At the same time, the assets are protected from your creditors.

You may also consider hiring someone locally to follow up with your father. While you can take care of paying his regular bills, there may be advantages to having someone visit him and get a better picture of where he is spending his money.

If your father doesn't agree to any of these ideas, you may have to consider talking to an attorney about your legal options, including a conservatorship.