When loved ones can no longer manage their government benefits on their own, a family member or friend will step in to help. For many government agencies and benefit programs, that means becoming a fiduciary. Simply put, a fiduciary is someone appointed by an agency to manage money or other things on behalf of someone else. Let’s learn more about becoming a fiduciary and other ways to help people with their benefits.
The rules and requirements of a fiduciary are different for each agency. Generally, fiduciaries are allowed to use benefit payments to take care of a loved one but must keep detailed records of how the money is spent and cannot mix it with their own finances. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has a guide on how to become a good fiduciary and avoid common mistakes.
Keep in mind, being a fiduciary is different than having power of attorney or being a trustee. Many federal agencies need you to register as a fiduciary to manage benefits for a loved one, even if you are already a trustee or have power of attorney.
Many agencies and states have a website for fiduciary duties, but it is important to check with each individual agency at the state and federal level for their specific program. Here are more resources on fiduciaries at the federal level:
If your loved one is still able to make decisions on their own but needs help with minor activities, you can help them navigate and fill out benefit applications and websites, without becoming a fiduciary.
If you are helping with applications, you may be asked to fill out some information about yourself, such as your name and relationship to the beneficiary. While you can help fill out forms, remember that the beneficiary must always be the one providing the information and is the one signing and submitting the application.
Looking for benefits for your loved ones? The Benefit Finder is a great place to start your search. The Benefit Finder lets you check their eligibility for over 1,100 government benefits in one place, cutting down your search time. Applying for benefits can be tough, but Benefits.gov can help you find resources for your loved ones.