People find joint bank accounts convenient. They allow spouses to pool money for common expenses, while an elderly person might rely on a joint account to enlist the help of adult children with finances. Making someone a joint owner means providing complete access to the account, including the ability to empty the account on demand. Those who feel wary about the risk can choose to include restrictions when the joint account is first opened.
No Right of Survivorship
Typically, every joint account holder equally owns the money. This means that the death of one account holder leaves the survivor with all of the account’s funds. Such accounts are called joint tenants with rights of survivorship -- JTWROS for short. To restrict survivorship on a joint account, the prospective account holders open it as a tenancy-in-common account. In this account, each person only owns part of the account, either equal or unequal shares, depending on what the owners specify up front. In the event of death, an owner’s share is left to whoever is named in his will.
To restrict each account holder’s ability to independently withdraw funds or close the account, the owners open a joint account that requires two signatures for withdrawals. Paperwork will link the names in the account with the word "and" rather than "or." Printed checks, for instance, might say, “Jane and John Jones.” Those opening dual signature accounts should be warned that the requirement won’t prevent a determined account holder from raiding the account by way of an automated teller machine card, perhaps, or even a check, knowing that banks process most checks automatically, without a signature check.
Tenancy by the Entirety
Depending on law, banks in some states may offer a restricted account known as tenancy by the entirety. Only married spouses can create such a bank account. Though state law makes the particulars of these accounts vary in different locations, in general, a creditor of only one owner-spouse cannot go after funds in the account. The account features the right of survivorship and may require two signatures for withdrawals.
To grant someone the ability to conduct transactions on the account but not ownership of the funds, an owner opens a joint convenience account or adds someone to an existing account as an authorized signatory. The signatory may also be referred to as an agent. The signatory’s account access ends when the account owner revokes permissions or dies. There is no right of survivorship because the authorized signatory was not an owner of the account, nor can the signatory’s creditors go after the funds. A convenience account may also be used where a signatory already has power of attorney over the account holder.
- Legal Match: What Is a Joint Account?
- ACTEC Foundation: Joint Accounts -- Dangers and Alternatives
- Financial Web: Joint Bank Account Facts to Consider Before Opening One
- Dale, Huffman & Babcock: Who Owns Your Bank Account
- Banking Questions: Accounts Requiring Dual Signatures
- People’s Law Library of Maryland: Bank Accounts
- Banking Questions: About Joint Tenants by Entirety
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