When should my husband relinquish the checkbook?

3 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Joan asked...

How do I know when my husband should relinquish the checkbook?  He controls all the finances but is not making good decisions and I cannot let him write checks anymore.

Expert Answers

Steve Weisman hosts the nationally syndicated radio show A Touch of Grey, heard on more than 50 stations, including WABC in New York City and KRLA in Los Angeles. He is a practicing lawyer specializing in estate planning and is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. He's a public speaker and commentator who has appeared on many radio and television shows throughout the country, and he's the legal editor of Talkers magazine, the preeminent trade publication of talk radio. His latest book is The Truth About Avoiding Scams.

The right time to step in and take away a person's ability to handle their own financial affairs is a very difficult thing to determine.

If you wait too long, there is the risk that tremendous financial damage may be done to your finances and investments. If you act too soon, you run the risk of hurting the feelings of your husband.

You should look for telltale signs that his memory or mental acuity is not what it should be. Does he make mathematical errors? Does he fail to include checks in the check register? Does he fail to reconcile the monthly statements? Do financial matters seem to confuse him? If any of these things are present, you should carefully discuss this with him with as much tact and empathy as you can.

If you conclude that there is a problem, you should see if he would be willing to let you control the checkbook. If he resists, you should then contact his physician because in order to have a court order through a guardianship or conservatorship to emower you to control his finances, you will need to prove that he is not of sufficient mind to be able to attend to these matters.

Community Answers

The caregiver's voice answered...

One option might be to write out the checks and then ask him to make sure they are correct before signing them.

In this way, he stays involved as a "decision maker" without having to go through the effort of writing out checks.

He will then trust that you are still checking things with him and that he is in "control."

I did this with my father long after I was appointed his conservator (guardian) and even while he was in the nursing home. Before this, he was sending checks to questionable organizations on a weekly basis.

Eventually, during a lucid moment (in the nursing home) he asked, "What's a matter with your signature? Why don't you sign them?" Despite his questions, I'd occasionally bring in a check for him to sign just to give him a sense of control. When he started worrying about having enough money, I stopped doing it all together.

Susan mantz answered...

Another resource is to hire a Daily Money Manager (American Association of Daily Money Managers www.aadmm.com). A professional DMM provides services for bill paying, bank deposits, bank reconciliation, organization assistance, and other related services. You can find a DMM in your area by checking their website.