An increasing number of elderly individuals in Tennessee have begun adding their children as joint account owners on their bank account. Understandably, older parents may need assistance in paying their bills or managing their finances. However, it is important to understand the risks in adding a joint owner and the alternatives that people have. If you have questions about what alternatives you or your loved ones may have, contact The Higgins Firm.
In adding a child as a joint account owner on a bank account, many parents do not understand the impact that action can potentially have on a person’s estate. If a parent passes away leaving only one of their children as the joint account owner, that child would be considered the sole legal owner of the account. He or she would not be required to distribute the assets to anyone else as the sole owner of the account. The decedent’s Will would not have any authority as to any potential distribution of the assets because the decedent did not have sole ownership. A will only determines how assets should pass if the asset was solely owned at the time of the decedent’s death. A parent will want to take this into account when developing an estate plan.
Another potential issue in adding a child as a joint account owner is the issue of creditors. When individuals become joint owners of an account, that asset is obviously considered to be jointly owned. If the child who co-owns an account is subject to the claim of a potential creditor like in a lawsuit, then the account is considered to be the child’s asset and would be subject to the claim of the creditor. Similarly, if the child was dealing with bankruptcy proceedings, that asset would be considered to be a part of his or her assets and would thereby be subject to the bankruptcy proceeding. It is important to understand such risk in adding a joint account owner.
So what options are there for people who may need assistance with their finances? A properly executed power of attorney is one way to avoid potential issues. By granting authority to another individual to handle finances, a person can avoid adding a joint account owner and the problems that may cause. If you have questions about a power of attorney, contact the Nashville estate planning lawyers at The Higgins Firm.