Helping an older person manage her money without making her feel like she's lost her independence is a challenge for many adult children and grandchildren. But as seniors age, it can be smart to have others watching out for them. That's especially true because there are so many scammers angling for seniors' money.

But there's plenty of advice available to help you understand what your responsibilities are when you handle someone else's money—and how best to do it. Those concerns are addressed in the brochure series, Managing Someone Else's Money, published by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans. One brochure discusses how to go about getting power of attorney for the older senior. Another is meant for those who are court-appointed guardians. A third is for trustees, and a fourth is for government fiduciaries, the people who oversee 401(k) plans.

The brochures are written with a national audience in mind. To deal with differing state laws, the CFPB also is rolling out specific guides for individual states. Its Virginia brochure became available in August; guides for Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, and Oregon are expected to follow.

Help for agents under a power of attorney, for instance, outlines what it means to be a fiduciary, entrusted with handling another person's money and property in that person's best financial interests. Here are some highlights, paraphrased from the brochure:

• As much as possible, involve the older person in decisions. If the person can't say what she wants, try to find out what she would have wanted, by recalling past decisions, actions or statements. Talk to others who know her to get their views about what she might want to have happen. Put her well-being above the financial interests of the people who stand to inherit her property and money. That may mean spending money that her heirs would prefer you didn't spend.

• Avoid conflicts of interest. For example, you cannot buy a car with the older person's money if you'll be using it mostly for your own needs, rather than for driving her to appointments and doing errands on her behalf. Don't hire a relative to do repairs to the older person's home if it's not the least expensive and best option; if appears to benefit your family more than the older person, it's a conflict of interest.

• Don't pay yourself for the time you spend dealing with the older person's business. The exception is if it's allowed by the power-of-attorney document, or by state law. If you pay yourself, document how much you paid yourself. It must be a reasonable amount.

• Never mix the older person's money and property with your own, or anyone else's. Don't deposit her money into someone else's account. Avoid joint accounts, or get legal advice before making changes to an existing joint account. Keep title to the older person's money and property in her name. Pay her expenses from her funds, not yours.

• Keep good records. Make sure that all transactions are documented, including receipts and expenditures. Avoid paying in cash; don't use her ATM card to withdraw cash or write checks to "cash."

Lookout for scams and exploitation

Changes in a senior's behavior, or in her accounts or the type of phone calls, mail, and email she receives, may indicate she's been a scam victim. For example, does she receive a lot of mail or email for sweepstakes or contests? Has she paid people you don't know, especially in other states or countries? Has she withdrawn large sums of money while with another person—especially a new "friend?" You probably should follow up. Other warning signs:

• Money or property appears to be missing. Or, the older person tells you that it's missing.

• Spending or savings patterns have changed. The senior suddenly withdraws a lot of money from a bank or investment account without explanation, or tries to wire large sums. Or, she's making uncharacteristic or frequent ATM withdrawals. She may struggle to explain how she is spending her money. She may suddenly say she can't afford to pay for necessities like food, medicine, or utilities.

• Bank statements or bills suddenly aren't arriving. Checks in her checkbook may be missing.

• The older person is making new or unusual gifts. You may recognize the recipient, or it may be an individual or entity you've never heard of.

• The senior changes beneficiaries. Check for recent copies of the senior's will, life insurance policy, or retirement account.

• Someone new is suddenly handling her money. If you investigate and suspect or determine foul play, report the crime. A few options for reporting: your local sheriff or police department; Adult Protective Services (through the National Eldercare Locator); and your state attorney general (through the National Association of Attorneys General. Check out our story, "Lies, Secrets, and Scams" for more resources.