Recent studies have found that as people age, many lose their ability to make sound financial decisions, yet at the same time their confidence in their decisions increases. That poses an important question for financial planners: What can be done to safeguard their elderly clients’ hard earned assets?

“In most cases, the senior is targeted with a sales pitch for high-risk investments like multiple annuities, illiquid, non-publicly traded REITs or limited partnerships that can ultimately land him or her in hot water,” explains Michael D. Chamberlain, a fee-only planner with offices in Sacramento, Campbell and Santa Cruz, Calif.

Chamberlain, who has worked with thousands of elderly individuals over the years, says that spouses and children must step up and add a layer of oversight. But this is difficult since often children don’t want to appear to be sticking their noses where they do not belong, and spouses don’t want to step on their husband’s or wife’s toes.

For elderly individuals who will agree to professional oversight of their investments and finances, the alternative, Chamberlain says, is to bring in a third-party to act as the client’s fiduciary and who will work with the planner and the client in a co-managed arrangement. While the elder is still a decision-maker and retains control over his or her portfolio, the fiduciary has authority to approve all investment decisions and can help apply the brakes to a questionable decision.

This professional advisor, acting as a fiduciary, “is another pair of eyes and another hand on the tiller to ensure that there’s professional oversight of any changes that take place,” says Chamberlain. And this approach ensures that a son, daughter or spouse isn’t in the hot seat. “Instead,” Chamberlain says, “it’s a professional with experience, training and education who makes sure that any investment decisions are prudent.”

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